Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel at Church of Our Saviour for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The above Collect can be found on page 818 of the Book of Common Prayer. It is intended to be used for “a Church Convention or Meeting.” I must confess that I did not go to seminary and pursue holy Orders in order to fulfill a deep desire to moderate annual meetings (or attend diocesan conventions, for that matter). Yet that does not mean that those two functions are not vital and even (at times) life-giving components to my ministry.
As you might expect, this year’s Annual Meeting will look unlike any other. We will be gathering virtually, unable to see one another in real time in the way we are accustomed. That being said, your staff and vestry leaders have been working tirelessly to adapt and amend the meeting to make it safe, effective, and efficient.
In my experience, annual meetings (and diocesan conventions) reflect the temperature of the group gathered. They are relevant when the mission of the church is relevant, and they are irrelevant when the mission of the church is irrelevant. They are contentious when the group gathered is lacking cohesive unity, joyful when the group is jubilant, anxious when the group is anxious, and so on. I have attended short annual meetings and diocesan conventions that were teeming with energy, and others that (though short) were a complete waste of time. I have taken part in extended annual meetings and conventions that left me wondering if my time was even being valued. I have also been to long annual meetings and conventions that were exactly what I and others needed.
We could pretend that 2021 is completely unique in the need it brings to adapt and amend our common life and functions (such as the Annual Meeting). But on one level, is that not true every year? Whether we are aware of it or not, we adapt our functions and ministries and worship every year (just in less obvious and disruptive ways).
I sincerely invite you to join us at 1 pm on Sunday, February 14th. Then, I will ask us all aloud, what can we learn from this time and this experience? What can we learn from the ways we have adapted and amended our common life to be relevant and sustainable in a changing world?