Josephine Hall
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Good morning and welcome to COVID Communiqué 36. We want to start by reiterating an important point about worship during the state of emergency. If you are using your church to record or broadcast liturgies, please remember the maximum number of people who can be in the building is five, including people providing technical help. No matter how big your building is, the five-person limit applies: it’s not five people in sight of the camera, or five people making a recording plus some family members or someone holding the camera or someone waiting to clean up. The limit is five people, total — and all five must be masked at all times.

As we said in last week’s Communiqué, no in-person vestry meetings will be allowed in the Diocese of Ottawa until further notice. This applies both to annual vestry meetings and special vestries and means all annual vestry meetings this year must be held either by videoconferencing or some other means that does not involve parishioners gathering in person.

For churches where Zoom is available, the Pandemic Vestry Group will host a training workshop on Thursday, January 28, 2021 from 1:30-3pm. The meeting will provide guidance on conducting vestry meetings by Zoom, including the basics of using Zoom and its features and best practices, as well as reviewing what’s required in a vestry.

All parishes are welcome to participate in the workshop. Each parish should be represented at the workshop by the incumbent/priest-in-charge and up to three other representatives of the parish. You are encouraged to include at least one person with computer skills.

Please register for the training session by 12 noon on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at http://bit.ly/3bGVa7f

You will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting after your registration has been approved (please allow 24 hours for registration approval).

Because the use of videoconferencing is not a realistic alternative for parishes without stable internet, we will provide guidance on other ways to hold your vestry meeting. Any incumbents who feel they cannot conduct their vestry meetings by videoconference are encouraged to contact the Ven. Linda Hill, Executive Archdeacon at [email protected]

Regardless of the means you use to conduct your annual vestry, the requirements of the Canons, Bylaws and Regulations of the Diocese regarding conducting vestry meetings are fairly straightforward. Each parish must hold an annual vestry on or before February 28, 2021, where the following actions should be taken:

  • Election of a people’s warden;
  • Election of lay members of synod;
  • Election of members of parish council;
  • Presentation of annual reports by parish organizations;
  • Presentation of financial reports (including auditor’s report) for previous fiscal year; and
  • Presentation of the budget, including diocesan apportionment.
In addition, each incumbent (or priest-in-charge) of a parish is required to present a report to the annual vestry on “the state of the church in the parish.” The report should cover the condition, progress, and needs of the parish and, given the events of the past year, should address the parish’s response to the pandemic including:
  • How the parish managed the cessation of in-person worship from March 14 to September 2020;
  • Whether and when the parish conducted on-line worship;
  • Whether and when the parish resumed in-person worship; and
  • Whether the parish was able to continue such activities as parish council, coffee time, Christmas bazaars, food ministries, AA meetings, book or Bible studies.

Notice of the annual vestry meeting should be given on the two preceding Sundays. Since parishioners cannot attend in person, it’s not necessary to print and distribute hard copies of a vestry book/package — you can simply post or email a PDF of all the reports.

We suggest parishes make every effort to meet these requirements while at the same time keeping your vestry proceedings as simple as possible and avoiding or postponing the discussion of contentious issues unless absolutely necessary.

We are aware a number of parishes are particularly concerned about their ability to meet the requirement to present audited financial reports. If this is the case for your parish, please do not hesitate to communicate with Sanjay Grover, Director of Financial Ministry at [email protected]

If you have any vestry questions in the meantime, please write to Archdeacon Linda at [email protected] For other pandemic-related questions, please contact the COVID-19 help desk at [email protected]