Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thoughts on the Annual Meeting

I put the parish’s annual meeting on my calendar today, an activity that caused me to notice that the event is scheduled for 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM on January 30. Given that it takes a few minutes to get everyone settled and the fact that a service is scheduled in the church for 10:30, this implies that the meeting will be about 45 minutes long, if that.

In the past, annual meetings have been much longer, though, mercifully, we have lately been dispensing with some of the reports that parishioners can read for themselves in the annual report. Nonetheless, given that the rector claims that the church is in dire financial straits, might there be a need to discuss the health of the parish? Apparently our leaders don’t think so, which, in and of itself, suggests that some discussion is indicated.

I see that we have a “Candidate Forum” scheduled the week before the annual meeting. In fact, we have one scheduled both before and after the 10:30 service. Do we have any candidates? In better times, Vestry candidates were announced many weeks before the annual meeting, brochures were available containing pictures, bios, and statements from the candidates. Also, the candidates were introduced at every service, so that parishioners know just who they were. At times, we have even subjected the candidates to a Q&A session, which gave parishioners a much better idea of who they were voting for.

If the stewardship campaign was a low-key affair this year, the search for Vestry candidates was even less aggressive. I suspect that people are not falling all over themselves as candidates simply because they are demoralized over the direction the parish has taken. My guess is that the rector will twist the arms of parishioners unlikely to rock the boat, and we will have an election with only as many candidates as there are positions to fill.

Then there is the matter of the annual report. When will that be made available, and will the current uncertainty regarding pledge income be used as an excuse to be less than forthcoming regarding the 2011 budget? Alter all, the budget seems to be up for grabs at the moment, and the Vestry doesn’t meet again until less than a week before the annual meeting.

In times past, discussion of the budget has been a large part of the annual meeting. Under treasurer Bill Andrews, a session was held in advance of each annual meeting to allow parishioners with special concerns about parish finances to get answers to their questions and, it was hoped, avoid the technical discussions at the annual meeting that bored most of the attendees. I thought this was a positive contribution to parish governance. It clearly is not going to happen this year, and it isn’t particularly clear that parish leaders have many answers anyway.

What happens at the annual meeting will, I think, depend greatly on the financial information provided beforehand. Will the financial report illuminate or obscure where we are as a parish? This remains to be seen.

I do not expect that 45 minutes will be adequate to discuss what parishioners need to discuss on January 30. What is the plan if that time is indeed too little?

No comments: