Alecture Deliverd By Rt Red Dr Akin Aterer At 2019 Clergy Workshop Of The Dioceses In Lagos Metropolis Held On Wednesday 23rd January 2019 At Bishop Howell s Anglican Church (Bham) Hogan Bassey Crescent, Surulere, Lagos
THE MAIN THEME: POLITICS IN AN IDEAL SOCIETY: THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH
TOPIC: TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL VESTRY MEETING
What is vestry meeting? It means the general meeting of the parish or the Cathedral held in the month of February of each year for receiving the audited financial statements of the church, election of the Parish, Archdeaconry and Synod delegates (when necessary). Vestry is so crucial to Anglican Church, so much that many of the members looked forward to the d-day where everyone can air his/her views concerning his/her observations of the church, either in the area of administration or worship. This is likened to the General Meeting of stakeholders of companies or statutory institutions. Experience has shown that if the Holy Spirit is not present at such meeting, it may sometimes be hijacked by the devil or his agents and the church may experience the beginning of ugly issues that may degenerate into chaos.
That is why it is important that the Vicar should not take the day for granted. I suggest that a day of fasting and prayers be declared in preparation for the smooth sail of the meeting.
It shall be called in February of each year: provided that, if circumstances demand it, the bishop shall has the right to permit the holding of the meeting in any other month within the year of the application for such is made to him by Parish Church Council. If permission is not sought and or granted before the first day of February, the Parish Church Council shall stand dissolved on the last Sunday of the month of February of that year and in that event it shall be competent for the Bishop to appoint a care-taker committee to perform the functions of the Parish Church Council until a new election shall have been held.
The qualifications for Parish status shall include the following:
(a) The Church must have been enjoying the services of a clergyman for three consecutive years.
(b) There must be at least fifty communicants in the Congregation.
(c) There must be a suitable Vicarage and a belfry. (subject to interim waiver at the discretion of the Bishop)
(d) The Church must have been licensed for marriage.
The Parish Church Council shall be constituted as follows:-
(i) The Vicar who shall be Chairman
(ii) The Curate (IF ANY),
(iii) The Church Wardens and the Parish Delegates to the Synod and the Archdeaconry Board.
(iv) The Officials of the Diocese and of the Diocesan Synod within the parish
(v) The Bishop s Nominee to the Diocesan Synod within the parish. (vi) The Archdeacon s Nominees to the Archdeaconry Board within the parish
Every parish shall be under the charge of a clergyman in priests’ orders who shall be called the Vicar of the parish and in case of the Cathedral shall be headed by Provost or Dean. For every parish, there shall be a Parish Church Council and for the Cathedral, Standing Church Committee. The Vicar of each parish (or anyone appointed to act by the bishop if there be no vicar) shall summon an annual meeting of church members to be called the vestry meeting.
PREPARATION FOR VESTRY MEETING/ELECTION
The date and the rules that will guide the affairs of the day must have been published or consistent announcements would have been made at least 21 days (3 Sundays) before the day. Because, there is variation in the level of understanding of different congregation, it is important that Vicars takes time to educate his members, most especially, he must provide access to the diocesan constitution for people to study and ask some preliminary questions before the vestry meeting. If any issue is raised that neither him nor the current P.C.C. can answer, he should clear from his Archdeacon and finally his Bishop.
1. SECRETARY: Report of all events in the parish during the year must be well documented by the Parish Church Council secretary. The report would have been presented to the parish church councilors for verification and approval. It is only then it can be printed for the vestry meeting.
2. AUDITOR s REPORT: The constitution of most dioceses allowed appointment/election of two Honourary auditors to look at the financial transaction and document of the parish. The so call auditor must have a good knowledge of accounting and where none of them has. The constitution provides that they can employ the services of an accountant. The auditors are expected to present the preliminary report to the Parish Church Council members for comment and approval; before the final presentation at the vestry meeting.
QUALIFICATIONS OF PARISH COUNSELLORS:
No person shall be eligible to vote or be voted into any office unless he is a communicating communicant and a subscribing member of the Church (subscribing member means a person who, being a member of the church contributes annually not less than the sum fixed as church dues in the congregation to which he belongs. The fixing might be done by the members of the PCC at their first meeting or at the vestry meeting). Those who qualified and also communicants, their names would have been compiled and be posted on the Electoral Roll marked “A” on the church Notice Board or such prominent place in the Church on at least two Sundays before any election provided that any person whose name is removed from or not inserted in the register and in the Roll may lodge a protest with the Vicar of the parish and if not satisfied, may appeal to the Bishop whose decision shall be final.
In some churches in order to minimize grudge or animosity, and in the Spirit of fairness, offices are shared into societies and groups, through, this is not in the constitution but it could be gentlemen agreement or Parish Church Council decision.
It is not part of our system to allow candidates to go into open campaign but where that is allowed, it must be done with utmost decorum without any negative intention.
It is not also right for the Vicar to impose any candidate apart from his own nominees. If he is interested in any candidate, he may lobby for such man or woman and his reason for bringing such candidate in must be christianly convincing. Everything he does must have the scriptural backing and the Diocesan Constitution. Don’t do anything in secret or collude with anyone. It s dangerous! What you can’t defend before God and your bishop, don’t engage in it.
Nomination before Election
Ballot paper and all documents for election must be ready and seal, to be open when the election is to commence.
Subscribing members of twenty-one years (21years) of age and upward who are confirmed members and communicating communicants, not excommunicated, and who have not placed themselves in such a position as might make them liable to be suspended from Holy Communion, shall have their names posted on an Electoral Roll marked ‘B’ which shall be the roll of person eligible as candidates for election to the vestry meeting.
Any church which has not attained parish status; shall have a Church Committee whose membership and powers shall be as may be determined by the Bishop with the approval of the Diocesan Board.
PRINTING: All necessary printing must have been completed before the vestry meeting, containing all the agenda and the information needed for the day s programme. It is advisable that the normal worship service for the day is shortened in order to gain sufficient time for the meeting.
SUGGESTED AGENDA FOR VESTRY MEETING
1. Opening Hymn (Must be related to the meeting)
2. Opening Prayer (Invitation of the Holy Spirit and dedicating the meeting to the Control of God)
3. Appointment of the protem secretary and assistant (to take record of the vestry meeting proceeding).
4. (a) Vicar s address: In many parishes, the Church Vicar/Chairman of the PCC has the authority and priviledge to share his views/observation new revelation, policy and programmes, the New Year focus, etc with his member and listen to their comment. Some call it “From the Vicar s Desk”.
(b) Minutes of previous year vestry meeting report
(c) Reaction and adoption of the previous year vestry meeting report.
(d) Parish Secretary report for the Current Year
(e) Reaction and adoption of the current year report
5. Financial Report
(a) Auditor s Report
(b) Statement of Accounts by the Wardens
(c) Comments on both the Auditor s report and Statement of account
(d) Motion for Adoption
6. Dissolution of Parish Council by the Vicar
Everyone who will not be qualified to vote or be voted for at this stage will be asked to vacate the church auditorium or may be asked to withdraw to the back seats and advised not to make noise. If provision is made for entertainment, they can be served.
The Vicar shall be the Chairman, in the absence of the Vicar; he shall nominate a member of the Parish Church Council to act for him as Chairman, with the consent and approval of the Bishop of the diocese.
The Vicar being the Chairman take the centre seat, supported at both sides by the assisting priests/curate, also by the side are the two Wardens (the Treasurers), the Parish Church Council Secretary should also occupy the front seat while all the incumbent parish council members sit behind the principal officers. It should be noted that the whole parish counsilors take the responsibility of any issues raised at the floor of the vestry meeting. It means no member of the parish council is allowed to ask question during the meeting, whatever question he/she has would have been settled at the last meeting of the council. Therefore, the document before the meeting is the parish council document. The Vicar can ask any of the members of the PCC present to answer any question from the congregation.
MONINATION OF NAMES:
Names of qualified candidate would have been nominated for each office to the Vicar and be pasted along with subscribing members list for at least 2 weeks, this is meant for members of the Church to Study and raise objection if there is any.
(a) A short Prayer
(b) Accreditation of Eligible Voters
(c) Appointment of Electoral Officers (Preferably, the congregation should be allowed to either nominate or elect the electoral officers)
(d) Explanation on the Election procedure
(e) Presentation of Nominees for various offices to the Electorate (those whose name had appeared on the published list, which had been posted for at least 2 weeks and there had been no objection. Although, objection to any name of nominees can still be raised before the actual election. Every nominated names must be cleared before election can be conducted).
(f) Election (Election to be conducted one after the other) The congregation must agree on the form of election whether direct, open or secret ballot.
(i) Peoples’ Warden
(ii) Parish Councilors
(iii) Synod Delegate (as applied)
(iv) Archdeaconry Delegate (as applied)
(g) Announcement of Election results
(h) Appointments by the Vicar
(a) Vicar s Warden
(b) Nominees to the Council (Vicar or Bishop)
8. Any other Business
9. Vicar s Closing remarks
10. Protem Secretary vestry meeting/Election Report
(i) Vote of Thanks
11. Closing Hymn (Optional)
13. Closing Prayer and benediction
There shall be two Church Wardens for each Parish Church, one appointed by the Vicar and the other elected by the Electorate at the Vestry Meeting.
No person shall be eligible to be a Church Warden or a member of the Parish Church Council or to hold any office in the Church or to be elected as a representative of any Church or body unless he is a communicating communicant and a subscribing member of his Church, and is not a member of any secret society or cult as defined on the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Canon XVI (5), 2002 (as amended) and he is a person, whose life and conduct is consistent with the office of Warden or Parish Council member.
Nothing in this chapter or anywhere else in the Constitution of Church of Nigeria affect the power of the Bishop to dissolve the Parish Council of any Church in the Diocese if he finds it reasonable to do so after due enquiries had been made by him.
Provided that if the Bishop shall exercise his power in this regard, he shall appoint a Care-Taker Committee which shall carry out all the functions of the Parish Church Council until a new Parish Church Council is elected, which shall be for a period of three months in the first instance, renewable, but in any case not more than the life of the Parish Church Council dissolved.
Thanks and God bless.
Rt. Revd. Dr. J. Akin Atere
Diocesan Bishop of Awori
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