Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Vestry: Forming as a circle of decision makers, wrestling with spiritual discernment and prayer

What if the most important thing the Vestry did is to pray? What would that look like?

I posed that question to our St. Paul's Vestry on retreat this past weekend at Roslyn, the beautiful retreat center of the Diocese of Virginia in Richmond.

Vestry members wrestled with that question, both in small group exercises, large group discussions and informal conversations during social times and meals.

Vestries, by their nature, spend most of their time on budgets, personnel, buildings and program planning. That's what Vestries do. And prayer as a priority can sometimes slip off the table without anyone quite noticing.

But if prayer were the first priority of the Vestry, how would all of the business of a Vestry look? What if a Vestry truly considered prayer the most important thing it does? How would the rest of what it does be affected?

The question permeated our discussions as we grappled with specific topics including interpersonal communications, discernment decision-making and long-range planning for our parish.

I can tell you our Vestry worked very hard, talked and listened respectfully, and took time to pray and be in silence. We began on Friday evening, worked all the way through Saturday into the evening, and then again all of Sunday morning. It was an intensive time together. We struggled with our growing edges as individuals and as a circle of elders called to lead our

Associate rectors Ann Willms and Nik Forti joined us for Saturday's discussions along with Parish Administrator John Reid, and I much appreciate their engagement with the Vestry.

We made our retreat truly a retreat. We spent much time in prayer, and took a few paces back and have a look at our role as parish leaders and where we are in the life of our parish. It was not an extended business meeting (in fact, the only business we conducted was the election of officers.

To elect officers, the Vestry used a discernment model that I brought with me here. On Sunday morning, we sat in a circle and each Vestry member was asked to complete the following sentences: "I feel called to be senior warden," or "I do not feel called to be (senior warden), but I feel (Name) is called to be (senior warden)." Not until everyone had come to agreement and a "unity of the spirit" did we have an election.

Pam Dennison was elected senior warden and I am delighted to continue my partnership with her this year. She is an able detail oriented senior warden, and has shepherded our Vestry through many challenges and is deeply committed to discernment decision making.

The Vestry also decided to continue with a model of having the junior warden be responsible for a leading a major project for the year. You may recall that two years ago, Paul Brockman chaired our Centennial Committee as junior warden, and last year Bruce Carveth chaired a Communications Task Force as junior warden.

This year the junior warden's project will be a long range planning group to take a look at what kind of ministries we need in the future and how our buildings and grounds fit within that vision for ministry. Lloyd Snook was elected to serve as junior warden and will chair the long range planning group with assistance from several other Vestry members. Bruce will continue his work with the communications task force; all of us felt that the communications team has already done much but has a great deal more to do, and Bruce's leadership is vital in that endeavor.

We also re-elected Jack Bocock as treasurer and John Reid as register, a position primarily responsible for keeping the minutes of Vestry meetings; the task that fits well with his position as parish administrator.

With our renewed emphasis on prayer, we created a new Vestry position, that of Vestry Chaplain, and elected Anna Askounis to that position. As chaplain, she will help keep our focus on prayer and shepherd Vestry members as they offer a spiritual meditation each month at the start of each Vestry meeting.

It is always a challenge to have one-third of the Vestry turn over each year (Vestry members are limited to a three year term).

We brought on board seven new members to the Vestry, and they bring new talents, vitality and asked many questions and worked hard to get up to speed.

We also welcomed to our Vestry Megan Tiller, a second year student at the University of Virginia who will serve as a non-voting Vestry member representing our Canterbury campus ministry program -- and thanks to Megan for all of these photographs on the blog today.

No comments: