Sunday, March 3, 2019

2019.03.03 Annual, Annual, Annual—Perennial

The annual meeting of an Episcopal parish church can be an occasion for groaning and dread among parish leaders. Our own parish annual meeting this year was quite different from the usual saved-up and savored gripe session.

First, it happened later than usual, because of the rector’s three-month absence as he healed from an accident, followed  immediately by the election as bishop of his spouse—an obvious move out of the diocese for the bishop-elect and our rector. The result of all this was that the annual meeting, frankly, left little room for more than business (confirm a budget and elect officers), kudos and appreciations, and a few well-bestowed gifts.

The normal tenor of many a parish annual meeting, and I’ve seen my share, wasn’t present. I’ve learned to expect:
    -long-held complaints, aired annually for their own sake
    -the annual question from the annual questioner who protests the parish’s annual assessment for diocesan ministries, read, poor-little-us, followed by the same explanation—it’s your taxes, get a grip!
    -what’s a bishop really worth—we only see her or him annually at best, and even then, we have to put on the dog with a super duper coffee hour
    - contesting a slate of officers with the secret wish that you yourself would be nominated by acclaim
    -self-nominations from the floor, which instigates a challenge, requiring a lengthy debate
    -endless budgetary petty picking like why do we spend so much on envelopes? 

All too often the loudest annual-only complainers are those who rarely attend on Sundays, seldom help with parish fund raisers or attend other annuals, like the fair, the rummage sale, Easter. I exaggerate for humor’s sake of course—but not too much.

Honestly, I was grateful that there was no petty tedium this year. Perhaps that’s because we have extremely capable and efficient parish officers and a treasurer who knows how to “treasure” money properly. Perhaps it’s because people were caught up in their own anger and uncertainty, reversal of expectations, fear about the future, pain at the thought of more change, trying to feel joy for the bishop-elect—and yes, plain old abandonment. I don’t know. I do know that I felt more sure than ever I have that this small community will thrive, financially and spiritually and that it will not be by some grace-in-the-sky miracle, but because of the Spirit’s lithe and effective use of our own focused efforts and gifts and prayers.

Lent and buried Alleluiahs aside, we are in Easter now. NOW.   

Henceforth therefore, I will think of Annual Meetings as perennials—Lilies or my favorite black-eyed Susans.

Perennials are enduring, recurring, and apparently infinite. Perennials symbolize hope. They are faithful. They show up. They are like us. Like the Church that goes up and down and dies, not quite, and returns again ready to bloom. Why? Because we keep on planting—day by day and year by year. We sing perennial hymns. We pray perennial prayers and variations thereof, generation to generation. We keep on doing what our founder insisted on—over and over and over—because we are perennials of hope, no matter what.

P.S. I cannot help but add this stunning metaphor the Warden used to describe the parish church. He said "We are getting this stagecoach moving on time and up to speed." Stagecoach? Yippee Kayay!😂😃