Last night our vestry met for our ‘changeover meeting’ prior to our new vestry taking office on May 1. Newly elected members attend and are enfranchised for the purpose of electing their officers. More often than not, these positions are ‘contested’ in the sense that more than one fine candidate is nominated and a ballot decides. It might be more biblical if we simply drew lots at that point.
One position that is not contested is that of Senior Warden, a position for which I hve the privilege of making the nomination in this diocese. It is our custom for the retiring senior warden to offer a meditation at this meeting. One of the great gifts, surprises and joys form me in the past year has been working with Della Wells. She is thoughtful, caring, effective and quick all at the same time,--a powerful combination. Her many gifts were on display in her stunning meditation last night. I will not seek to summarize it here and only say that we have asked permission to publish it in Saints Alive or online or both. Suffice it to say that she has inherited the family genes of her great uncle, Bishop Robert DeWitt, (http://www.edomi.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=331) one of the three bishops who ordained eleven women as priests of the Episcopal Church (see http://ecusa.anglican.org/41685_3311_ENG_HTM.htm).
Another aspect of our meeting that was particularly striking to me was our time of intercession during one of our occasional celebrations of Eucharist together. As names of the sick were called out in prayer I was reminded how in any gathering of the saints, there are many who are carrying real burdens of love and concern for people close to them who are sick or suffering, mourning or in other need. When we share the desires of our hearts in the midst of the community of faith—whether formally during a Eucharist or informally in one or another of our parish groups—something real begins to happen in and by the grace of God.
Two conversations earlier yesterday addressed a tension for us in developing communities of enough trust that the real desires of our hearts, our hopes and regrets, our joys and sorrows can be shared. On one hand groups frequently need to be ‘closed membership’ in nature for such trust (and consequent growth in faith) to occur. On the other hand we need a way of moving people who desire such community within our parish into those groups quickly. Our GIFT program was designed to allow for both purposes, but the program has not worked for the second. Our idea that we would create a group whenever there were eight or ten people willing to covenant with one another still stands, but what we have had is one or two or three people looking for a group at any given time who seek other avenues for such community when the critical mass for a GIFT group is not immediate. We are now exploring whether they may be a way to integrate one or two people into existing groups from time to time without significantly disrupting the trust that has already built up for a small community.