The Annual Meeting: A Rookie Anglican Guide

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If the Super Bowl is within sight, it is usually time for congregations to have their Annual Meeting. It is often mandated by order of the church’s bylaws or parish or diocesan tradition. Still, it does make sense to gather the faithful members of the flock once a year to review the year past, assess where things are, and point the direction for the following year.

What is the Annual Meeting?

The Annual Meeting is not a command performance for church members—they don’t have to attend. However, they should. And the people should be reminded that they should attend. The Annual Meeting is a time for the rector to teach the congregation about the church’s purpose and definition (Article 19). It is an excellent opportunity to set the context of this congregation within the broader Church Universal—that their congregation is part of a worldwide, longest-lasting, and ever-renewing mission (pg. 1).

Sponsored

From my new book, The Rector, the Vestry, and the Bishop (published by Anglican Compass):

…the church’s 2000-year history is an undeniable miracle. And your congregation, as part of this enduring institution, stands at the forefront of a movement that is still changing the world. The church alters everything it touches. It is vital to remember this fact and approach the church’s work with the reverence and dedication it deserves. (Pg. 5)

Ten Ways to Make the Annual Meeting Worth Meeting About

With this in mind, consider these ten ways to help your Annual Meeting live up to its desired level.

1. Begin with Worship

Before beginning his lecture, J.I. Packer used to say, “Doxology should always precede theology,” and then lead the class in singing praise to God. Your Annual Meeting should do the same. By definition, a church is a gathering of believers, and believers should always express their love and devotion to our loving God. Start with a song or two and a prayer.

2. Remember the Vision

The rector should prepare and present an address to help the members understand the faithfulness of God in recent years (past), the challenges facing the congregation (present), and the needs and plans for the next steps (future). Refer to my chapter entitled “The Rector as Chief Visionary Officer” (pg. 61) for a thorough explanation of the rector’s leadership role in presenting the parish’s vision. Setting a clear vision is a crucial way the rector maintains unity in the church. As Proverbs warns us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18 KJV).

3. Include Testimonies

It is always good to hear what God is doing in the lives of church members. Choose two or three people ahead of time to share a small part of their spiritual journey over the previous years. What has God been doing in their lives? How have they grown in their faith? Some of these men or women could be retiring vestry members.

4. Select a Few Reports

Some churches have program leaders write reports of their ministry during the year. This is a wonderful record of the church’s work, and it should all be published on the church’s webpage. But a stream of oral reports will drag the meeting down. The rector or the senior warden should review all the written reports, thank the committed leaders, and share some highlights only.

5. Honor Retiring Vestry Members

Show public appreciation for the men and women completing their term on the vestry. Be sure to give them something to thank them for their service. (Don’t be cheap.) Suitable gifts for retiring vestry members include a leather-bound Book of Common Prayer and/or an engraved silver pocket cross (such as those available here). The quality of your gift should honor their service and elevate the vestry’s role.

6. Elect Vestry Members

Anglican polity is unique in that the only vote a congregational meeting should ever have is to elect a slate of people to serve on the church’s vestry. They do all the voting. The vestry candidates should be prepared beforehand so they know their duties and roles. Remind the congregation members in attendance of the five roles of the vestry. (Pg. 69)

7. Present the Budget

The treasurer or the senior warden (not the rector) should present the congregation’s Annual budget as approved by the vestry the prior month. There is no need to provide the details of specific line items (salaries, VBS supplies, Copier rental). Occasionally, a member might want to know particular salary details, but the treasurer is not obligated to share that information publicly. They can meet for a sidebar meeting later.

8. Don’t Vote the Budget

The budget is a strategic working document for the rector and the vestry and, given changing circumstances, might be revised during the year. For that reason alone, the budget is not subject to a vote by the members.

9. Deal with Conflict

Most people attend an Annual Meeting because they care about the church and love their congregation. But sometimes, worries, concerns, or controversy circulate around the congregation. We live in highly contentious times, and the church is not immune. We easily forget that we are called to unity and treat each other “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). It is best to address problems in the rector’s Annual Address. The rector should hear all grievances (if any) and pastorally respond to them and, if warranted, indicate that these topics will be on the agenda at the first meeting of the new vestry.

10: Call to Action

At the end of the meeting, the rector should ask people to take action to support the mission and ministry of their congregation. At a minimum, the rector should ask for consistent weekly attendance in worship, commitment to grow in faith and generosity, and evangelistic zeal in reaching neighbors, coworkers, and friends, inviting them to attend.

The rector should note that the ten elements do not have to be done in order or only at the Annual Meeting. The rector’s address or report can be given on Sunday morning as a sermon developed from Scripture and with an expanded call to action (consider transcribing this address/sermon and placing it on the congregation’s website). Retiring vestry members can be publicly thanked in the morning and then given their appreciation gifts at the Annual Meeting.

A Mission of Light

In our secular society, the church needs to establish itself as a mission of light for a world that is becoming increasingly dark. In the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews,

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

The church should gather regularly to fulfill its sacred duty to reach out to the world while also addressing concerns, celebrating victories, encouraging one another, and giving thanks to God. May your Annual Meeting be a time for all these things to occur.


Purchase the paperback and Kindle editions of The Rev. Canon David Roseberry’s new book, The Rector, the Vestry, and the Bishop now, exclusively on Amazon.


Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash.

Published on

January 17, 2024

Author

David Roseberry

David Roseberry leads the nonprofit ministry, LeaderWorks. He was the founding rector of Christ Church, Plano, Texas, and is the author of many books. He lives in Plano with his wife, Fran.

View more from David Roseberry

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