Vestries are people who are committed not only to running a church, but who are deeply committed to God. (Time: 3:30.)
This is Bishop Carlye Hughes of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, and I want to talk with you about Vestries. And most importantly about their special role as elders of a congregation.
It's funny, I don't hear people refer to Vestries as elders - we tend to lean on them for those practical ways of being church together. The Vestry makes sure that the roof is solid and not leaking. The Vestry makes sure that we have rooms for all the classes that we're trying to teach on a Sunday morning. And if we're running short on people to serve as ushers or people to be on Altar Guild or to serve on Buildings & Grounds, we turn to the Vestry and we ask them for help with all of those things. And all of that is stated in the duties of people who are on Vestry.
The unstated thing is that they are the elders of our church. They are the wise people. They are baptized, they are confirmed, they have spent time in the church. They know how the church works - and even more importantly, they know how God works. And that's the piece that I want us all to hold onto with Vestries.
In the letter from James to the church, James writes to churches that if there's someone who's suffering, we should pray. If there's someone who is full of good cheer, then we should celebrate with that person. And, if there are those in the church who are sick, we should turn to the elders of the church and ask the elders of the church to pray for them.
Every Sunday, I have the blessing of meeting with Vestries. And the first thing that we talk about is their spiritual lives. We actually don't talk first about the needs of the church and the practical matters of being Vestry - we talk about their individual spiritual lives. I find it to be the most inspiring part of the day, the most inspiring part of the week for me, week in and week out. Hearing Vestry members talk about the way that they see God in their church, the way they see God in their lives, and the way they see God in the world.
I'm convinced in this time that we're in, whether we are sick in body or sick in spirit, that we can turn to our Vestries not only for help in running the church, but that we can turn to our Vestries for help with our own spiritual life.
If you need some inspiration, talk to a member of your Vestry. If you need someone to pray, talk to a member of your Vestry. If you're feeling that there's not enough hope in the world, talk to a member of your Vestry. Because these are people who are committed not only to running a church, but who are deeply committed to God.
There's one person in all of these meetings who has stayed with me when they talked about the way that they see God. And I remember him so clearly saying, "One of the things that has helped me so much in coming to church is I've become a better husband, I am a better father, I'm a better man for the people of faith that I walk in faith with."
That's who serves us in Vestry. We have much to learn from them.