Last Thursday morning we packed up two cars from Canterbury, and your Rector (me), our Vestry Sr. Warden (Joe Lane), our Vestry Jr. Warden (Dorothy Treadwell), our two elected convention delegates (AnneMarie Werner-Smith) and our elected convention alternate (Warren Smith) headed down to El Paso for our Annual Diocesan Convention. After only a few mishaps (like your rector getting pulled over by the cops, and not knowing where her husband keeps the registration in his mini-van) we made it safely to the El Paso Marriott for the Convention.
What happens at Convention? Lay delegates (the Jr. & Sr. Wardens from each congregation and elected delegates) and clergy delegates (all the canonically resident clergy in the diocese) meet with the Bishop and his staff for two days of fellowship, formation, and business.
FELLOWSHIP: It's pretty fun to take a road trip with your fellow church members. I learned all sorts of things I never knew about the Canterbury delegation in 8 hours in the car! It's also a treat to get to spend time with and get to know clergy and lay leaders from other congregations throughout the diocese.
FORMATION: We've had fascinating plenary speakers at convention for the past three years: Richard Rohr (2015), Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (2016) and this year theologian, scholar, and storyteller Megan McKenna.
BUSINESS: The "business" of convention involves electing clergy and lay persons to serve on various diocesan committees and delegations; approving the diocesan budget for the coming year; receiving reports on various diocesan missions and ministries, and voting on various resolutions pertaining to the life of the Diocese. This year we passed two major resolutions, one recommending an annual commemoration of military hero Ted Howden each December in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, and one urging all congregations and diocesan institutions to complete a church disaster plan prior to the 2018 convention. The Bishop announced that, upon his death, the majority of his estate will be gifted to the Diocese to support the eventual construction of a Ted Howden Memorial Chapel at the Bosque Center (our Diocesan Office & Conference Center in Albuquerque.) The most controversial item on the agenda was the proposed budget, which will include a modest increase in the "Fair Share" each congregation will pay to the Diocese. In 2018 Canterbury's "Fair Share" payment to the diocese will equal 14.75% of our total income (~$25,000 for Canterbury for the year.) Opposition was fierce. Don't be surprised if the Bishop wrangles me into serving on the Diocesan Budget Committee in 2018. That's what happens when you stand up and speak out.
Our next big diocesan event will be a special convention at St. John's Cathedral on May 5th, 2018, at which certified clergy and lay delegates will elect the next bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Our new bishop will be consecrated on November 3rd, 2018.
Church governance and politics were all completely new to me when I was ordained almost 8 years ago. I had never served on a vestry. I had never attended a convention. Heck, I had never even participated in Student Council! But I'm slowly but surely getting the hang of it and beginning to understand the value, importance, and even beauty of "taking my place in the councils of the church."
If you'd like to learn more about church governance first hand, I invite you to consider offering your gifts as a candidate for vestry, deanery representative, or convention delegate at our next annual meeting at Canterbury. (NOTE: We like to have our slate of candidates in place by December 1st in preparation for the annual meeting in January, so if you're interested in running, please talk to Joe Lane, Dorothy Treadwell, or Sylvia+ ASAP.)