Sunday, April 10, 2011

Report from the Senior Warden

Senior Warden Carl Kylander, with some help from Lou, was the speaker at Adult Forum today. Thursday’s e-mail newsletter described the session as “the conclusion of this five-week series, Responsibilities and Privileges of Membership, and the Senior Warden's Report on Parish Priorities for 2011.” As usual, I could not attend because of choir rehearsal, but I did get copies of the handouts, which deserve some comment. You can read the four pages of handouts here.

Vestry Priorities

The first handout is “Vestry Priorities for 2011.” There are three:
  1. Secure the financial health of St. Paul’s
  2. Communications with the parish
  3. Welcoming
Of course, only (1) is stated as an objective.

Financial Health

Surely rescuing the parish from its current hand-to-mouth existence is an important—probably the most important—priority. Since we have run rather lackluster stewardship campaigns in the past, assigning two Vestry members to stewardship and emphasizing stewardship all year long are probably savvy moves. On the other hand, judging by the handout, I fear we will initiate a capital campaign before we have assured our financial stability. This could sabotage both stewardship and the capital campaign.

The statement that “[t]he need for a capital campaign has never been clearer to us than it is now” is worrisome. I am hardly convinced that the need for a capital campaign is urgent. What we could (and should) do now is ask parishioners what projects they would propose. Last time, a list of projects was offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Even projects I thought were worthy I found impossible to support because I felt the details were not well thought out. A campaign will be successful only if parishioners feel ownership in what is proposed.


The second priority might be more properly described as “improve parish communications,” certainly a worthy and important objective. I like the idea of having two parish meetings in addition to the annual meeting each year, but sandwiching them between the services, as the Vestry plans to do, will minimize their usefulness. Only about a dozen people showed up for today’s adult forum. Will we be satisfied with similar attendance at the new parish meetings?

Restoring the Communications Commission is surely a positive move. Never has a Communications Commission ever really accomplished anything at St. Paul’s, however, so Michelle Baum has a daunting job ahead of her. I wish her all success.

I am concerned about the Vestry’s new-found need for unity. It is sometimes vitally important for members of the Vestry to close ranks, even if there is not 100% agreement on a course of action. It would not be healthy, for example, if 40% of the Vestry were to express their opposition to a capital campaign. I just hope that the new policy will not mean that Vestry members opposed to any initiative will shut their ears to the concerns of parishioners. Striving for “unity” can too easily be a means of suppressing dissent.


It is difficult to see what “welcome,” as an objective, means. Perhaps “build a stronger parish community” would be a more helpful goal. One would like to see a few bullets explaining how Millie Ryan and Sandy Ludman intend to pull this off.


The next handout (page 2 of the PDF file linked to above) is titled “Giving in the Episcopal Church.” This handout is well thought out and is especially helpful for new church members who may have come from a Christian tradition that does not rely on pledges as much as Episcopal churches do. The document is informative and avoids the temptation to nag, shame, or intimidate.


The third handout (page 3 of the PDF) is “Being a Member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.” This is another good piece, though perhaps a title like “How to Become More Involved in the St. Paul’s Community” would be better. Not everyone will want to be so involved, at least not at all times of their lives.

Member Registration

The final handout (page 4 of the PDF) is labeled “Member Registration,” the like of which I have never seen at St. Paul’s. I suspect that the parish could fill out this form for many of us, but existing information may be incomplete or out-of-date. It is probably a good idea to update information for everyone periodically. For long-time parishioners, it would actually be helpful if the church did fill out the form for us and simply ask that we validate or correct the information. I like the use of “Adult #1” and “Adult #2” at a time when “Husband” and “Wife” might, in many cases, be inappropriate.

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