To: The St. Mary’s Community
From: A grassroots group
April 13, 2019
In the past several weeks a number of community members have gathered to unpack the rapid change in our community, to recognize the fundamental uniqueness and spirit of this authentic group, and to recommit to our life as members of this special place. These conversations have taken place in the St. Mary’s room, in people’s homes, on the telephone and over email. We are a loving, passionate and committed community.
We believe in a vision of a St. Mary’s that has a committed and substantively engaged lay leadership that is involved with decision making within the church, has a democratically elected vestry who represents a variety of views, that is fiscally stable, and is a place where we feel at peace with the past and strengthened for the future.
We recognize that we have been through a lot and there is much that we still need to process. We are a community that needs answers, that yearns to be heard, and that is committed to justice and to healing. Many of us feel that our congregation has been hurt by the Title IV process, and that the response of the Episcopal Church of Minnesota has been inadequate and unjust.
We also want to make it very clear that throughout all of this our vestry has been forced to handle a very difficult situation, one which they did not expect or sign up for. We also see that this very small group could have been better supported [by the greater congregation] in making such highly impactful decisions. We appreciate what they have been through and are immensely grateful for all that they have done on behalf of the St Mary’s community.
At this juncture in our community life, we are facing three fundamental challenges.
1)We are in need of financial stability. As a result of dramatic change and the subsequent withdrawal of several parishioners, we are significantly under budget. We need to re-engage our membership, invite them back to the community and commit to being an authentic and welcoming community that has the financial support of its members.
2)We are in need of understanding and healing from the governance processes (both at ECMN and at St. Mary’s) that have led to the removal of our priest of 19 years, and put our community in a state of crisis.
3)We need democratic and activated community leadership that can help to restore a sense of participation and agency in a group of people that have felt left behind and in the dark in the light of recent actions by ECMN.
We think it important to separate these three needs and to recognize that it is through authentic and broad-based participation that we will have a chance to regain the vitality that is so characteristic of St. Mary’s.
It is with love for community and commitment to vitality that we suggest these changes to our current governance and structure be considered for the Annual Meeting on April 28, 2019:
As suggested in the letter from the wardens, we request that the membership elect one co-chair (co-warden) and 4 additional vestry members. Instead of having specific titles, we suggest that each of these additional 4 be elected to serve “at large” until the vestry and the community has a chance to consider what roles are most crucial to the body. We also suggest that these newly elected vestry members commit to serve for only one year with an option of serving for 2 years. This shorter term will make it possible for someone to serve during this transitional year without committing further. Lastly, and perhaps most important, we request that the vestry immediately commit to creating and codifying a process that will include community voices in essential decisions made by the governing body. This could take make forms including open forums, participatory sessions facilitated to solicit input, and more. In every case when a significant decision is being considered, the vestry is required to inform the parish of the issue at hand and solicit feedback from the body before making a final decision. We also request that they open the vestry process to the community by recording written minutes, publishing upcoming vestry meetings, and inviting the community to attend meetings.
We, the hands and feet of God,