August 30, 2011

Vestry as Spiritual Leaders?

How would your vestry's work differ from current practice if the spiritual health of the congregation was its primary obligation?

One of the best kept secrets in the Episcopal Church has to do with the wide range of work that vestries can take on. In the following collection of articles, I've chosen to highlight a few cases in which the spiritual dimension of vestry leadership has been emphasized. 

Beware a Theology of Entitlement
Caroline Fairless has observed how a few members' sense of entitlement can spiritually disable an entire congregation, and highlights vestries' role in countering this theology of entitlement. "A young woman who has asked for a spot on a vestry agenda comes right to the point: 'I speak for those of us who don’t like the changes in the worship service.'”

The Lord Broke Through
Do your vestry meetings include prayer on the agenda? Richard Schmidt recalls tense meetings throughout his career as a priest in which vestries needed the Lord to break through. "Only in my last parish did prayer become part of the vestry agenda. That was also — and I think this is no coincidence — the parish where the vestry focused on mission and ministry rather than arguing."

Cultivating a Culture of Discernment
Blaire Pogue shares how St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN has invited vestry members to understand their primary role as a spiritual discernment team. “In order to enable our vestry to focus on the larger, more complex adaptive challenges our faith community faces, we raised up a management team composed of people in our church with expertise in business and human resources. They are able to take many operational items off the vestry’s plate so the vestry can focus on big-picture issues.”

Discernment: A Building Program About More Than Buildings
John Baker of St. Aiden’s in Alexandria, VA shares how a renovation project ultimately led to a rediscovery of St. Aiden’s core values. “For eight years our central question seemed to be: Will we be able to do these renovations? Today, the question has shifted...These days, we are busy learning to ask what God might be inviting in the life of our congregation. We are learning also that asking such a question means being open to answers we may not have expected.”