Saturday, February 2, 2013


I was  at the church this morning for Saturday Bible Study. There was not yet any sign of an Annual Report or brochure about Vestry candidates. As I was leaving, however, I noticed a listing of current Vestry members and the commissions to which they are assigned. I was surprised that the number of commissions is reduced from what it once was, and two Vestry members are assigned to a number of commissions. The current commissions are as follows (number of Vestry members assigned are shown in parentheses):
  • Children & Youth (2)
  • Fellowship (2)
  • Outreach (1)
  • Stewardship (2)
  • Welcoming (1)
  • Worship (1)
By contrast, here is the commission list from the 2003 Annual Report:
  • Children and Youth Ministries (1)
  • Communications (1)
  • Fellowship (1)
  • Outreach (1)
  • Pastoral (1)
  • Spiritual Growth (1)
  • Stewardship (1)
  • Worship (1)

Some Observations

 Currently, 9 Vestry members are assigned to commissions; in 2003, only 8 were. Both then and now, of course, the property has been the primary responsibility of the junior warden. Other roles that need to be filled are those of senior warden, treasurer, and secretary. The treasurer, secretary, and junior warden may be, but need not be among the 12 lay Vestry members, which I assume accounts for the 8 versus 9 commission members in 2003 versus 2012.

What I find especially interesting is the disappearance of the Pastoral and Spiritual Growth commissions. I assume that clergy have taken over these responsibilities and operate largely without Vestry oversight. One conspicuous result of this is that Adult Forum seldom hosts outside speakers, and the topics covered are more circumscribed than formerly.

The disappearance of the Communications commission is unsurprising. It was actually short-lived. The need for it is no less pressing than in 2003, but the commission was problematic, since it attempted to oversee and influence paid staff members. (Maybe there is an insight to be had about the Pastoral and Spiritual Growth commissions here as well.)

It is, no doubt, a good idea to have two Vestry people assigned to Stewardship. The job of the Stewardship commission is important, difficult, and—dare I say it—unpopular.

On the other hand, I am perplexed by the assignment of two Vestry members to the Fellowship commission and one to the Welcoming commission. Do we really need three people devoted to hospitality? Of course, people on Fellowship are subject to burnout, as parishioners seem to think that their job is to run events personally, not simply organize them.

It isn’t clear just how many non-Vestry people are involved with commissions. At one time, at least a handful of people were on each commissions, and the commissions met on the same night once a month. That doesn’t seem to be the case any more. That’s a pity, since the commissions provide a means to involve more people in running the church and to lighten the load of Vestry members.

One commission whose demise is to be lamented is the Property commission. In recent years, the junior warden seems to have acted largely alone, but it would be helpful if a small representative group of parishioners provided  regular advice to the junior warden. I have written about what I think is needed here—my suggestions go somewhat beyond a Property commission as it has been constituted in the past—and I commend to you what I wrote on the subject about two years ago. (See “Managing Change in a House of Worship.”)

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