We are preparing to elect two new members to our vestry next Sunday at our annual parish meeting. This slate of candidates includes:
Linda and her husband John have been members of CHA since 2016. Linda is the Pre-K Assistant Teacher at Plymouth Meeting Friends School. She has been an integral volunteer for so many things at CHA, from gardening projects to pancakes with Santa. She also serves on the Altar Guild. Linda is a member of the Daughters of the King and is interested, with several others, in starting a chapter of DOK here at CHA. John and Linda live in Wynnewood.
Jean and his wife, Katie, joined CHA in 2019 after moving back to the area from Florida. Jean and Katie have deep roots in this community. Since the pandemic prevented us from meeting normally, Jean has been instrumental in building and facilitating the technology we’ve needed in order to conduct our services virtually. A talented musician, Jean has used his talents combined with his technical skill to help create our virtual choir offerings. Jean works for Electronic Arts. Jean and Katie live in Havertown.
We will also vote on a motion to allow Suzanne Lees to continue serving on the vestry for two more years. At last year’s annual meeting, Suzanne was elected to complete the last year of Kevin Cavanaugh’s vestry term. Given the challenges we have faced together in 2020, Suzanne has graciously volunteered to stay on the vestry and complete a typical three-year term. I hope very much that we will vote to keep Suzanne. She is a gift to this parish, and I am grateful for her willingness to continue to serve. Her continued vestry term will provide much needed stability and continuity as we face 2021 and, with God’s help, emerge on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thank you to all three vestry candidates. I hope that all members of the parish will be able to join us online next Sunday, January 31, for our annual parish meeting.
A Note on Vestries
The vestry and rector serve as the leadership of this parish together. The vestry system is unique to the American branch of the Anglican Communion (The Episcopal Church). During our colonial period, the Church of England operated in the American colonies under the direct authority of the Bishop of London. There were no bishops on American soil until after the American Revolution. There were also no seminaries, and colonies eventually experienced a dire clergy shortage. The vestry system developed out of this necessity. In order for parishes to survive, they needed to have strong lay leadership. Especially in colonies like Virginia where the Church of England was the Established Church, parishes were not just church communities they functioned as geographical entities (similar to the old system of counties and parishes in England). The parish vestries that developed, then, did not just administer the temporal affairs of the parish church, but also, in many cases, served as civil administrators of the entire geographical parish. From this history, our contemporary vestry system has developed. Unique to Anglicanism, (and also to Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and many “Mainline” denominations), a vestry in the Episcopal church is tasked with hiring a rector in consultation with the bishop.
Vestries are a testament to a fact just as true today as it was in colonial America, and indeed everywhere at every time: the church’s backbone is strong lay leadership. The New Testament puts this in theological terms. All baptized Christians are called to be in the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:5). We are all ministers of the Gospel, and essential parts of the Body of Christ, the Church. Our role as priests, under Jesus the Great High Priest (Hebrews 7), is to pray for and bless this world, and by our lives, to bring this world closer to God’s Kingdom. That’s the cosmic picture. The local picture seems more mundane. During the pandemic the vestry met monthly on Zoom and passed numerous emails back and forth, conducting the business of the church. Don’t be fooled. The work of the vestry is profound, essential, and beautiful. It is nothing short of committed, loving members of this local congregation quietly doing God’s work day in and day out. I am so grateful.