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Annual meetings: the best of times and the worst of times

Annual meetings: the best of times and the worst of times

In this the season of Annual Meetings. Share your best experience of an annual meeting? What happened? How did it happen?

What was your worst annual meeting? What went awry? And here is an Episcopal Meme that is going around Facebook. Did your meeting seem like this?


What tips can you offer to improve these annual congregational gatherings?


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Ann Fontaine

Thanks for the report Malcolm – and love the Bonnie Perry quote.

Malcolm French+

Jim decided this was his favourite Annual Meeting story based on a tweet.

I’ve been incumbent of my current parish for three years now, and was interim priest for most of the three years before that. But at my first Annual Meeting, I wasn’t even the interim, merely the priest who happened to be there to preside on the Sunday of their Annual Meeting.

Technically, I had no obligation to attend the Annual Meeting, but I rather thought I ought to in case there were questions I could answer. I didn’t intend to say much, and deliberately sat at the side of the church basement with two preteen girls who were busy colouring.

Part way through the meeting, a woman stood up to say: “We need to have a serious conversation about our future. We need to decide if we’re just going to muddle on until we have to close or whether we should close now so the resources can be redirected elsewhere.”

This was a challenge for the priest who hadn’t intended to say much. It was also a challenge for the Anglican Church in our city, where there used to be 11 parishes, five of which were “north of the tracks.” As of that morning, three of the five “north of the tracks” parishes had closed. A fourth had sold its building and was meeting at a location “south of the tracks” – and I knew that congregation was intending to vote itself out of existence at their Annual Meeting that same day.

So I challenged the assumption that the only available options were “close now” and “close later.” After a long discussion – some of it quite emotional – there was an emerging hope against hope consensus that trying to grow was the most faithful response.

I had always understood that discussion as significant. It was a line from an American priest (Bonnie Perry) who was a candidate in an episcopal election (Minnesota) that actually put it all in perspective for me a couple of years later. In one of the candidate walkabouts, Perry said, “Of course we believe in the resurrection. But first you have to know you’re dead.”

I don’t know if St. James the Apostle Parish could have turned things around (as we have over the past six years) without that conversation at that Annual Meeting, which began as a conversation about closing and morphed into a decision to live and to grow.

The conversation acknowledged that “the way we’ve always done it” was not a viable strategy. It created a parish environment where “let’s try this new idea” was at first okay and eventually embraced.

I’ve been privileged to walk with them through this journey.


Ours was going to be tomorrow morning but it’s also been postponed since we are expecting icy conditions by then.

[Jesse, please sign your name when you comment.~Ed.]

Padre Michael

Once, while traveling, I attended an Episcopal church to find that it was annual parish meeting day — right in the middle of the service. Yuck! I felt as if I were being held hostage until we could receive communion. I suppose it kept people in the pews for the meeting instead of giving them a chance to escape. I don’t mind our own meeting, but I’m not eager to go to everyone else’s!

Michael Rich

Michael Hartney

Sorry, I broke my leg and the meeting has to be postponed (and errrrr, cancelled) … I wish I had thought of that. 🙂

Honestly, though, I hope she is back on her feet, so to speak, soon. After all, there are books of the Law and scrolls of the prophets to read tomorrow!

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