Tomorrow, along with many congregations throughout the land, we'll be holding our Annual Meeting at St. John's. Every parish is canonically required to hold one and most happen in late January. You can always tell when a parish has a divisive issue to address since they schedule the meeting on Super Bowl Sunday, secretly hoping fewer people will attend.
At their best, Annual Meetings are wonderful celebrations of parish life. They give parishioners a chance to hear about the breadth of ministry that takes place -- both visible (Sunday School) and invisible (Altar Guild). New vestry members are elected, the annual budget for the coming year is presented, and the congregation is given an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments. The Annual Meeting is an invaluable time to take a step back in the midst of the daily ministry grind and seek the broader view, examine the past year, and look ahead to where God may be calling the congregation in the future.
Unfortunately they rarely live up to such lofty ideals which is why they are often poorly attended. If you haven't checked your watch early and often during an Annual Meeting, you're probably not a true Episcopalian. These affairs are also an annual source of stress for clergy, lay leaders, and parish staff. Transparency is important and thus offering details about the budget plays a vital, if tedious, role. If there are "fireworks" at the Annual Meeting they usually stem from the budget presentation. This is one reason I make our treasurer available for a pre-meeting conversation the Sunday before. Those with issues on their minds can get them addressed in a small forum which helps reduce everyone's anxiety and diffuse any potential disagreements at the meeting itself.
Many trees get slaughtered to put the report on paper and it takes a tremendous amount of staff time to pull it together. Perhaps one day they'll all be available on i-Pads but for now we're printing fewer copies while making it available as a pdf. If you're interested you can view our Annual Report here.
So, to all my brothers and sisters diligently preparing for their respective Annual Meetings (and those who must endure them), I offer the following:
The Annual Meeting Haiku
Budget blah, blah, blah
Something about Jesus Christ
Please up your pledges.