Friday, 28 February 2014

Rector's Report to Annual Vestry 2014: St Andrew's Church, Newlands

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5; NRSV).

Dawn and I greatly value the welcome we have received into the heart of St Andrew's, and can genuinely reflect that our move here from Pretoria has been a good one, and that we are happy in your midst. We appreciate all the effort that was put into getting the Rectory renovated for our advent, and the variety of welcomes we have received from so many. We are particularly appreciative of the friendship that has been offered us in the accumulating invitations into people's homes and lives. It was wonderful to arrive and be caught up in the exuberance of the Morning Market, and to flow into the various activities leading into our St Andrew's Christmas celebrations! Thank you.

My particular thanks to all who helped keep the ship afloat and moving forward during the interregnum, especially to the Churchwardens, Treasurer and assisting Clergy. Their job would have been all the more strenuous without the smooth operation of the Church Office - thank you Bev - and the ongoing support of the Church Council and Layministers, and the supportive participation of many in the wider Parish. It is wonderful to step into a Church community where key functions work, enabling a focus on mission and ministry and the proclamation of the Gospel.

Craig van Gelder (professor of congregational mission at Luther Seminary in the USA), in his book The Ministry of the Missional Church: a Community led by the Spirit, makes a useful distinction between mission and vision: we look to the Bible to discern and define our mission; we look to our context to discern and define our vision. He further makes the point that our core Church activities of worship, care, fellowship, education, discipleship, service and witness - rather than being an end in themselves - become the dynamic space where our mission is implemented and our vision realised. Our present statement at St Andrew's "... to be a loving, worshipping Christian community, which encourages everyone to follow Christ as disciples, through being obedient to his word and spirit, and as a result taking God's love to the local community, to the poor, the needy and the world" is a powerful statement of purpose (mission). The second part may in fact be our vision, and we need to explore this further as vision gives impetus to our mission. Mission is about who we are, what we do; vision is the "why." A key word in our present statement is "everyone", and speaks to our desire to be inclusive, as does the phrase "the world." An example is our Ministry to the Needy (MTN): it substantially realises our mission to take "... God's love to the poor, the needy" and is inclusive in the breadth of need we meet, but is limited in terms of parishioner involvement. We need to take time to reflect on how inclusive the opportunities offered by our core activities really are, and whether they are truly effective in helping implement our mission. People and resources are the primary input into this process, and ministry is the primary outcome as we seek to extend the reign of God in the communities we serve and in the wider context of God's created world.

Our mission (and vision) is important because our purpose helps define who we are, what is important to us, and - in terms of vision - where we perceive God to be leading us. Being human we are often drawn to other success stories, but do we really want to be known as a mirror of another community? There is often a temptation to define ourselves, not by our strengths, but by our weaknesses. To obviate this we need to be asking questions such as: what is our particular gifting as a Christian Anglican community? Where is God blessing us, using us? Mike Keggie, my predecessor, listed substantially more strengths than weaknesses in his final report to Annual Vestry in 2012, and I would concur - even after my short time with you - with his analysis. Weaknesses are opportunities that have potential to drive further growth, but they are not definitive of our identity. We need to build our identity around our values, and again Mike Keggie noted three areas of value here at St Andrew's: proclaiming the Good News, prayer and worship, relationships and mission. We have a lot to be proud of at St Andrew's, which we need to embrace, celebrate and own.

In my listening to you over the last four months there have been three particular topics of conversation that have stood out: our building project; our need to retain our young teenagers going forward; our ongoing use of A Book of Common Prayer (CPSA), more commonly known as the South African Prayer Book (SAPB). Each of these is a conversation in itself, so let the following suffice here:
  • in no conversation has the need for the building project been queried, and while detailed usage will need to be explored further, we need to agree on a footprint in order for the project to take a necessary step forward; 
  • in terms of our teenagers we need to explore "gaps in the market", rather than get competitive with well-oiled machines like Christ Church, Kenilworth, and Common Ground who presently draw off this age-group; 
  • in discussing our use of the SAPB we need to take care that we do not ride roughshod over what may indeed be of deep spiritual significance to some.

As you are likely to already have noted from my sermons I am in essence a practical theologian, and I relate strongly to James' admonition that we should "... be doers of the word, not merely hearers who deceive themselves" (James 1:22; NRSV), believing that our Faith should at all times inform the greater breadth of our lives. I do - on occasion - recognise my fallibility, and I seek to live my faith by example. There are times when I appear slow to make decisions, due often to my ability to see the issue from both sides and it takes some time to discern the most useful course of action; a nudge is often appropriate. I like to explore how things work before delegating specific tasks, but then trust others to be good stewards of these responsibilities once in their care. I am sure you will discover many quirks in my nature and leadership as we move forward together. One quirk is my support of the Lions (having been born in Johannesburg), and I noted that supporters of the local Cape Town team were surprisingly quiet after last week's clash, but then I guess a 24 point deficit is hard to swallow. I am used to a quiet opposition: my father-in-law is, after all, a Vodacom Bulls supporter! That said, the DHL Stormers will have my full support against the Hurricanes tomorrow evening (how can I not support a team that carries my wife's initials proudly displayed upon their chests?)!

Going forward I would like us to:
  • explore the purpose and focus of our three Sunday worship services and two weekday services; 
  • find ways to extend our home groups (a wonderful base for building relationships); 
  • in addition to our Lent and Marriage courses identify other courses or programmes that will develop our discipleship experience; 
  • explore potential links with local schools and the University, and thereby build our ministry to young people; 
  • find ways for greater individual participation in various areas of our Ministry to the Needy; and
  • seek areas to build active partnerships with other Parishes in the Archdeaconry and Diocese.

The task of the new Council will be to help determine the why, what and how, and directed by our mission (and vision), identify people and resources to make these things happen. The role of Council is to direct our Church life, to motivate us and to encourage us all to participate in the mission and ministry of St Andrew's Church as we seek to serve God and the purposes of his Kingdom in the village of Newlands and beyond.

I look forward with anticipation to working with our newly elected office-bearers, and the Parish as a whole, as we embrace the challenges and joys 2014 brings us.
As I close, let us take courage from God's word through Isaiah to the people of Israel:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6; NRSV).

MARK R D LONG
Rector
27 February 2014

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Thoughts on an Annual Vestry

Definition

The Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (and affirmed in the Acts of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town) require that "The Parishioners of the Parish shall meet in Vestry ... at least once every calendar year not later than the 15th of March" (Canon 27).

The Canon goes on to say, "By Parishioner shall be understood any person ... who either is on the list of confirmed Communicants ... or ... being baptised, and not being a member of any other religious body, is an habitual worshipper in the Church ... of the Pastoral Charge in respect of which a vote is claimed."

What happens at the annual Vestry meeting?

We look back and we look forward. We look back over the preceding year, which is done primarily via a report from the Churchwardens on the year's activities, supplemented by additional reports from various Church activity groups, along with an audited report of the state of the Church finances. Looking forward is the primary function of the Rector's report along with what the Canon describes as, "the care ... of the Parish in matters affecting worship, stewardship, ministry, education, evangelism, unity, development and social responsibility." In looking forward we set the tone and direction of Parish life for the year that lies ahead. Decisions taken by the Vestry are binding on the Church Council.

The other role of the annual Vestry meeting is the election of two Churchwardens and an Alternate, Parish Councillors (at least five), two Synod representatives and alternates with an additional representative under the age of 25, and three Archdeaconry Council representatives. There will be a Synod this year from 14-16 August, and there will be two Archdeaconry Council meetings on 22 May and 13 November. And it will be good if we can receive nominations for all these positions prior to the Vestry meeting.

What is the process and who should we nominate as Churchwardens?

Canon 29 requires that, "Every Churchwarden ... within this Province shall be a confirmed Communicant of the age of twenty-one years and upwards" and further stipulates that, "They shall be elected by the majority of Parishioners present and voting, with the subsequent agreement of the Incumbent [Rector]." The precedent for voting, set by Provincial Synod, is that each person present will have two votes (as we are electing two Churchwardens), resulting in the nominated persons gaining the two highest votes becoming Churchwardens, and the person receiving the third highest votes automatically becoming the Alternate Churchwarden.

At St Andrew's we have a long-standing policy that Churchwardens should have a limited tenure (tenure is not limited by Canon 29) of three to four years in order to encourage others to step forward into leadership. To ensure that we do not break Canon 29 in implementing this policy, there are two options: the first is for those individuals who have served us as Churchwardens for an extended period to not re-accept nomination; the other is for Parishioners present at the Vestry meeting to exercise their vote in such a manner as to ensure that this policy finds traction. Also it is useful, but not required by Canon 29, that those nominated for Churchwarden have had recent experience on Parish Council. And, perhaps needless to say, we need three or more people nominated!

What is the process, and who is eligible, for election as Parish Councillor (and Synod and Archdeaconry Council representatives)?

Anyone who fits the above definition of "Parishioner" and is a confirmed communicant is eligible for nomination and subsequent election. Vestry decides on the number of Councilors to be elected. Again as per the precedent set by Provincial Synod, if the number of people nominated exceeds the number decided upon, a vote will be taken. If the number of nominations equals or is less than the number decided upon, then those nominated will be deemed to be elected.

If you allow yourself to be nominated and are subsequently elected as Churchwarden you will be required to attend at least a monthly Parish Executive meeting and a monthly Parish Council meeting, two Archdeaconry Council meetings during the year, an annual Diocesan Budget meeting, and any other ad hoc meetings requested of you by the Rector, Archdeacon or Bishop. If nominated for Parish Council and subsequently elected you will need to be available for a monthly Parish Council meeting, and be willing to pick up some form of portfolio commitment as a member of the Council. Synod and Archdeaconry representatives need to be available to attend monthly Parish Council meetings, attend Diocesan Synod (Synod reps) or Archdeaconry Council (Archdeaconry Council reps). Please note that those nominated for Churchwarden, if not elected, are not automatically nominated for Parish Council. This needs to be a separate nomination.

Can we access a copy of the Constitution and Canons, and the Acts of the Diocese of Cape Town?

A full description of responsibilities for Churchwarden and Parish Councillor can be found in Canons 28 (of Parish Councils) and 29 (of Churchwardens and Chapel Wardens), and a full copy of these can be requested from the Church Office, as can a full copy of the Canons and Constitution of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and the Acts of the Diocese of Cape Town.

Hopefully the above information gives you sufficient understanding of what the annual Vestry meeting is all about, and sufficient basis to attend! I look forward to your participation and involvement, and pray that if you are approached for nomination to any of the above positions you may have the courage to allow your name to go forward for election.

MARK R D LONG
Rector
30 January 2014