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

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