Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons.
Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.
— Book of Common Prayer, p. 855
I always think this part of the Catechism (which you can find in the back of the red Book of Common Prayer) is a good one to keep in mind as we get close to Annual Meeting. It’s not by accident that the Prayer Book lists lay persons as the FIRST order of ministry. Lay persons are first because they are the most important. At Annual Meeting, many lay ministers at Redeemer will be stepping up to take their place in the “life, worship and governance of the Church” as they stand for election as vestry members or deanery and convention delegates.
You will be taking your place in the governance of the Church, too, because you will be casting your vote to elect the lay representatives and leaders of Redeemer. In an effort to help you be informed voters, I thought I’d share a little about what your vestry and deanery/convention reps do.
Firstly, we must elect at least two people to be our representatives to the wider Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Just like we elect representatives to represent us at the State House in Boston, these representatives will go to our annual Diocesan Convention to cast their votes on whatever legislation or resolutions are brought on a diocesan level. In between that yearly convention, they will attend regular meetings of our deanery (15 parishes in our region) to stay informed of what’s going on in other parishes and share what’s happening at Redeemer.
The vestry is the governing board of the church. It consist of 12 people: the rector, the four officers (senior warden, junior warden, treasurer and clerk), and 6 adult and 2 youth vestry members. The vestry has several key roles. Firstly, they set the vision for the parish. Of course this vision is based on what they hear from the congregation at large, but it is their job to hold up our vision for ministry and what our church is all about. Secondly, they guard our values. They make sure that the decision we make and actions we take are in keeping with our values as Episcopalians and as Christians, and in the ethos of the Redeemer community. Thirdly, they are the stewards of our finances, ensuring prudent and faithful decision-making, good business practices, and generous stewardship.
The vestry is a great example of how our lay leaders are the most important ministers in the church. As your elected leaders, they are the ones who make major decisions about our parish life and make sure we’re supporting our many committees and ministries with the resources and help they need. Although there is a lot to do, the vestry is also a great team where we have fun and support each other. So if you are ever asked to serve on the vestry, please consider it!
Thank you for your lay ministry at Redeemer, and I look forward to seeing you at Annual Meeting.