Election years seemed to be more fun way back when. The parties would go to their conventions for a week in August to select their candidates. Then we would hear all the speeches and debates for September and October, and vote early in November. Now we endure months and months of posturing. It all leads to polarization between and among the parties. It’s hard to hear it all and remember we’re all on the same team. Our camps are often more important to us than our country.
We hold our parish elections this week. The Annual Meeting is Sunday at 11:15. Episcopal churches are odd in that we only vote on one thing: the Vestry. Everything then is decided by the leaders we have chosen. The Vestry and Rector, along with the staff, carry things out on a day to day basis. We vote once a year and trust those elected to carry out their responsibilities. More attention is given to the ministries we do than the people we elect.
At St. John’s, seven people are elected each year to serve on the Vestry of 21 persons. Seven new voices are added to the mix and bring in various new ideas. More importantly, fourteen people are nominated each year. Seven, we could say, are not elected each year. Losing such an election probably stings a little, but the sting is offset by being part of a life-giving process. In a manner of speaking it doesn’t really matter who is elected because the fourteen are all qualified. The parish has a choice to make and the decision really cannot be a bad one. Whoever is elected is then equipped to serve. Whoever is not elected continues as part of the parish family, perhaps to be elected another year.
Vestry elections do call forth individuals but they remind us that the community takes precedence over each individual. At times there are camps within parishes (we’re fortunate not to have been in such a place very often in our history) and things get a little too personal. Usually, though, it’s easy to see the individuals are offering themselves for the good of the group rather than just trying to win some power struggle.
Elections, all of them I suppose, help us live into our human responsibility to decide. Daily we make choices, cast our vote if you will, make decisions we think are best for us and others. Then we live with those decisions. Very few decisions are life-and-death sorts of decisions. Most are smaller but all are important.
No decision, nor any election, totally determines outcomes however. God shapes us as we make decisions, guides and directs us if we are attentive. But God also gets involved after decisions are made. The good is magnified. The bad is minimized. Choices are extremely important, yet not fully determinative. God serves in and through us.
With our parish elections, we pray that God will equip those we choose. Sometimes in life we have to choose between good and evil. Here we get to choose between good and good, between fourteen good and faithful servants. God will do good things with the seven chosen. And God will continue to do good things with the seven not chosen. The good of the parish is not confined to such elections but they serve a good purpose to further our Christian endeavor and deeper our community.
This week we give thanks for God’s spirit among us that has brought us to such a good place. May we make the most of our wonderful opportunities and know that each of us is appointed to serve in the places we are assigned.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.