Thursday, 30 April 2009

Meetings and more meetings

April is Annual Vestry time (parish A.G.M. s in the Church in Wales, largely concerned with annual reports and elections). For a complete “committeephobe” like myself it’s one of the great pleasures of the Spring, given that in a multi-parish benefice like the one in which I serve, we have four Vestry meetings and one A.G.M. (for our daughter church, St Mary’s.) Our Vestrys went well and were very constructive this year, despite the problems caused by a very gloomy economic outlook.

I’m not sure where the tradition came from that annual meetings (inconvenient for those in charge, but necessary in terms of accountability and good practice) have to be held at this time of year. I know that in theory, according to the Province’s Constitution, they can be held at any time from January to the end of April, despite still being commonly referred to as the Easter Vestry, but I’ve always thought that the late autumn would be a better time, before the end of the Church’s liturgical year. Post-Easter (or during Lent, despite the great penitential possibilities) is, for the clergy anyway, the worst possible time, given the fact we are usually fairly tired and somewhat washed out following Lent and the Triduum.
I expect there is a financial reason (there’s always a financial reason) why this suggestion would prove impracticable, but it would have a certain ecclesial logic on its side. Having said that, there is probably no chance whatsoever of a change ever being made, given that the Church in Wales is obdurately traditional in the things that don’t matter very much, yet increasingly sits light to tradition where it does matter. The curious rumbling noise coming through the floor at meetings of the Governing Body these days is the sound of the great Archbishop Green turning in his grave! Has anyone read Green's commentary on the Constitution lately? It brings out the fact that the original Constitution is essentially a catholic document in its ecclesiology and its spirit, but unfortunately entirely dependent upon the existence of orthodox bishops - the familiar Anglican story, now that the soixante-huitards are in charge.

We had an interesting comment at one of our meetings. Someone from the floor made the point that, given the refusal of the Bench of Bishops to honour its promises and appoint a new Provincial Assistant, should those parishes which have looked to the PAB for sacramental and pastoral care not be accorded a substantial reduction in parish share? A very good point, indeed. I did make the point in reply that, despite the fairness of that suggestion it was somewhat unlikely, any more than the Bench would pay for the increased use of antidepressants necessary as a result of their decision. A joke, if you were wondering; in any case there are no NHS prescription charges in Wales!

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