Recently my wife and I saw a production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” at The Hanover Theater in Worcester. One of the numbers in that show is called “Getting to know you.” (If you don’t know the show, you can see a clip of the song
This isn’t a review of the show. I want to talk about vestries. In my experience, vestries have a lot of work to do and too little time. Most people on vestries are coming in from work – sometimes missing dinner. If meetings run too long people are getting tired and ready to end the day. The Church faces huge challenges, but one of our biggest challenges is time – there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it.
Of course we are called to focus on mission. But vestries are also responsible for no small amount of maintenance as well. Stewardship of resources takes time. But if we aren’t careful, vestries can fall into auto-pilot and be about an inch thick and a mile wide. How to go deeper?
One of the most interesting and rewarding aspects of my work as a member of Bishop Fisher’s staff is doing Mutual Ministry Reviews. These reviews are not clergy assessments. They are what they say they are and at their best they are simply opportunities to carve out some space to be together and to go deeper. Without the normal agenda there is a chance to reflect on mission and purpose and to ask the “why?” question. The format is pretty simple but the work can be quite fruitful. What is working well? Where are there opportunities to grow? What are the next steps that need to be taken toward fulfilling God’s Mission?
It’s really about being more intentional about creating space to do this work – and knowing this work matters every bit as much as the Treasurer’s Report or the update about the cost of a new boiler. Many vestries use the time after Annual Meetings to attend Diocesan Leadership Day and also to build in some kind of retreat time to do some of this work. But then things get rolling along. And then summer comes. Many vestries don’t meet in July and August or only meet during one of those months. I get that and I know that rest matters.
But I also wonder if the summer isn’t a good time for a vestry to have a less formal meeting. Or to schedule a Mutual Ministry Review. Perhaps it’s a good time to meet in someone’s backyard for a barbecue and get to know each other better by sharing our stories. I am always a bit amazed that even in congregations where people have known each other for many years, we are hesitant to share our spiritual autobiographies. Or too busy. What if we took time in a July meeting to share our stories, and to ask the question of where our stories intersect with God’s story?
In each parish this will play out differently, but I encourage you to think about carving out some time in this most beautiful time of the year to do this more reflective work, so that when fall rolls around and programs are up and running and things get busy those things are grounded in a sense of mission and purpose
. Get to know each other!