With the pandemic persisting and restrictions on in-person public gatherings continuing for the foreseeable future, all vestry meetings will be conducted virtually in 2021 in accordance with new regulations approved by synod council.
“Moving to virtual vestry meetings — especially for annual vestry meetings at the beginning of the year — is about keeping people safe,” said Archdeacon Bill Mous, diocesan executive officer and secretary of synod. “At the same time the decision recognizes the importance of vestry meetings in the life of our parishes and diocese.”
At annual vestry meetings, discernment about local ministry is undertaken, financial statements for the previous year are received, and churchwardens, lay representatives and parish council members are elected or appointed. In addition, a budget for the coming year is passed and any other business connected with the temporalities of the parish is transacted. The canons of the diocese specify that annual vestry meetings are to be conducted no later than March 1 of each year.
Anticipating a second wave of the pandemic, members of synod approved an amendment to Canon 4.1 in November. The change allows for regulations related to the holding of vestry meetings to be approved by synod council.
In accordance with the new regulations, notice is to be communicated by any reasonable means available, including a verbal announcement during in-person or virtual worship services (as possible), parish-wide email or mailing, individual phone calls and/or posting on the parish website. Virtual meetings may be held by teleconference or videoconference, as most appropriate and accessible for the members of a particular vestry.
In the last year, more and more people have become accustomed to participating in virtual meetings and online worship services. Synod council has been holding virtual meetings since April and synod convened virtually in November. Several vestry meetings have also convened in this manner since the pandemic began last March.
Many parishes will be using Zoom for their vestry meetings. The videoconferencing platform, with a telephone call-in feature, has seen widespread use in all aspects of daily living, from milestone celebrations to business meetings, weekend socials to pastoral visits.
To assist with planning for virtual vestry meetings, a special online workshop for clergy, wardens and treasurers was organized in early January. More than 150 people participated in the event, one of several training sessions held in recent months to better equip parish leaders for ministry.
“Our governance structures help to guide, equip, and resource the missional work to which we have discerned the Spirit to be calling us to,” said Archdeacon Mous during the workshop. “This important work will still happen this vestry season, creatively adapted as has been our custom since the pandemic began.”