“Who’s in charge here?” the question came from a frustrated visitor who had shown up on a Sunday morning and wanted the “Pastor” to sign off on a statement for the newspaper. The previous rector had been part of a group that I met with but never joined, and they were making a public statement about a controversial issue. I refused to sign.
The statement involved the use of buildings and grounds, and that was squarely a vestry issue. The vestry in the Episcopal church is the governing board of a parish or congregation. It is made up of lay members of the church in good standing who are elected. The vestry is chaired by the rector and wardens and cannot meet without the priest in charge except under circumstances like sabbatical or vacation. They oversee the fiscal and the physical matters of the church.
In every level of leadership in our denomination there is an ordained or executive leader and a board of members. There is always lay representation at every level because we are a Protestant church, formed at the same time as the American democratic republic. The two structures mirror each other in ways I will explain during Confirmation and Reception classes during Lent.
Every year at our annual meeting (this Sunday at 4 pm on Zoom, see below) we elect new members to the vestry of our parish. This lay board is my dance partner as your rector. I am grateful for those who are willing to discern a call to serve and those who have served.
Thank you for those who have served this past five years, and a special thank you to those who have served as wardens. Dr. Stephanie Conrad has served as Senior Warden while being on duty at Children’s Hospital during the pandemic. Ben Irwin has served as Junior Warden while running a full time business. We are grateful for both, and thank them as we look forward to electing new officers with the new vestry.
Pray for your vestry. And know that your vestry prays over Christ Church of the Ascension as its first responsibility. We are all in this thing together, and I am glad to see the leaders God is moving into new roles in our parish.
The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Rector, Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona