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Ever Watch a Waitress Carry Coffee? Vestry Vision as an Antidote to Political Polarization

This Sunday, January 11th starting at 10:00 a.m. sharp in the Fellowship Hall, is the Annual Congregational Meeting of The Falls Church Episcopal.

During the meeting, parishioners will hear important updates on our finances, property and legal case, ministries, and vision.

One of the most important things that happens during the Annual Meeting is the election of new vestry members. It's a good sign of growth and vitality that we have more people standing for election to vestry than there are positions. Candidate's bios (now with photos) on our website by clicking here

For those of you unfamiliar with Episcopal Church polity, a Vestry is the governing board of an Episcopal Church, comprised of lay persons elected by the congregation at the annual meeting. Vestries have four primary responsibilities. The first two are managerial or administrative: the Vestry is responsible for taking care of parish finances and the parish buildings and grounds. A third responsibility is to choose individuals to fill various positions of leadership and representation: the choice of a Rector, and the choice of delegates to the Diocesan and regional Council.  

But it's the fourth role of the Vestry that I'd like to focus on here. And that is the fact that Vestries serve as an advisory council to the Rector, who by church law is the parish's chief liturgical and pastoral officer.

In that capacity, some of the most important work we as a Vestry do is help create, and then watch over the implementation of the parish's three to five year vision.

Proverbs 29:13 tells us that "when there is no vision, the people perish."

I don't know about perish, but without vision we certainly don't thrive or accomplish as much as we are intended by God to accomplish.

As you all well know, we live in an era of polarization, turmoil, division, and distraction. This is true not just in the world of politics, but often in the church as well.

I think the antidote to polarization, turmoil, division, and distraction is to have a compelling vision.

You know what I did in my very first meeting with the vestry after I was called to be the rector of this church? It was to show them what restaurant waiters or waitresses can teach us about leadership.

Ever watch an experienced waiter or waitress carry a hot cup of coffee? 

The way you carry a hot cup of coffee without sloshing it all over yourself is to focus NOT on what you're carrying, but on where you are going.

From gay rights to gun control to global warming, there are many "hot" issues or causes that are important for Christians to carry -- to care about, speak up on, and to get involved in. There's no such thing as an apolitical Jesus, and there should be no such thing as an apolitical Christian.

But neither is there such a thing as a Republican or Democratic or liberal or conservative Jesus, and being a Christian should force us out of those easy, over-simplified categories and into difficult and complex conversations and causes.

As Eugene Peterson writes

"A Christian congregation de-functionalizes every person who enters it. We come into view in the company of one another not in terms of our competence or net worth, but as saints and sinners - and nobody is able to sort out one from the other. It is the least specialized gathering of human beings on the planet. Where else can you find yourself bracketed by nursing infants on one side, nodding octogenarians on the other, and rubbing shoulders with so many people whom you acknowledge, however grudgingly, as brothers and sisters, and with whom you have nothing in common except your common humanity - and God. Especially God. A large and true context. Very large; very true."

In an age of divisiveness and polarization, people find a common vision like ours - loving God and loving our neighbor as our self - to be compelling and attractive.

But we as a vestry and congregation need to continue spending the time necessary to flesh out our vision into tangible three-to-five year goals that are revisited periodically, and then invest (financially and otherwise) in the resources necessary to live into that vision.

If we do that - if we stay focused on where we're going, together - then we can successfully carry, without scalding anyone or slowing us down, all the hot causes we need to carry.

In an age of politicization and polarization, casting and then actually carrying out a common vision is a tough job to do - and that's on top of the tough, time-consuming work of caring for the finances and properties with which we've been entrusted.  

But we've had vestries filled with hard-working, spirit-led people who are willing to do it. And thanks to those stepping up and offering to serve on vestry, it looks like we will again.

So thanks to them, and thanks be to God for this wonderful place and people called The Falls Church Episcopal.

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