By Maurice L. Harris
The Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont took place on October 26 at the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain. It was the first convention led by the new bishop, Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown. Consistent with the event theme, Forward, Bishop Shannon offered a preview of what’s ahead for Vermont’s 45 Episcopal congregations as they contend with what she described in her Eucharist sermon as “a media version of a church that doesn’t match what we know about ourselves.”
The Bishop encouraged congregations without a priest to experiment with “new ways of being church.” And she implored attendees to avoid defining themselves by insecurities about the future and low church attendance. “Perhaps these roadblocks are an opportunity to discern a new way of expressing ministry that pulls us in a different direction,” she said.
Invoking words famously written by James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, Bishop Shannon argued that the way forward begins with “thoughtful reflection on the past.” She reminded attendees of the Diocese’s historical and recent past strengths, including the support of marriage equality, migrant justice, a formal commitment to evangelism, and the election of the first African American woman as a diocesan bishop in New England.
“We are living the foreword of the next chapter of the acts of the Episcopal Church of Vermont,” She said. “I’m dreaming about evangelism, formation, welcoming and engaging liturgy, social justice, creation care, contextual and regional models of ministry. We’ll do all of that and more.”
Second only to Holy Communion, Bishop Shannon’s sermon was the concluding highlight of the day-long celebration, and by many accounts a fitting close to a Convention that had begun with equally inspirational and thoughtful reflections on the past. Attendees had gathered for morning prayer at the start of Convention, which opened with a special dedication to the Abenaki and Vermont Native People prepared by the Rev. Kim Hardy and the Rev. Auburn Watersong.
Bishop Shannon read from the prepared remarks, “We acknowledge the traditional, ancestral, and unceded land of the Abenaki people on which we are worshiping, praying, and celebrating today. We honor the Abenaki people who have been living and working on this land from time immemorial.”
Visit the Racial Reconciliation & Racial Healing page on the diocesan website and scroll mid-way down for a newly-added section dedicated to the Abenaki and Vermont Native People.
This year’s Convention offering, which totaled just over $5,600, was earmarked for recovery efforts in the Bahamas—an initiative that began when Hurricane Dorian wiped out much of Grand Bahama and Abaco islands in late August and early September. Under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Indianapolis, and the Rt. Rev. Peter Eaton, Southeast Florida, there has been an effort across The Episcopal Church to raise $1 million for this cause, and the bishops have been advocating support for Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund.
To follow is a list of the Resolutions that were passed by participants in this year’s Convention who were eligible to vote. The list includes four Courtesy Resolutions, conferred on individuals and teams to whom the Convention wished to express special recognition. The full text of all Resolutions is available on the Diocesan Website at https://diovermont.org/diocesan-convention:
- Resolution to Adopt the FY2020 Budget for the Diocese of Vermont and Set the goal for the 2020 Alleluia!fund
- FY2020 Budget Plan (Accompanies the FY202 Budget Resolution)
- Resolution Establishing Minimum Clergy Compensation for 2020
- Amendment to Resolution Establishing Minimum Clergy Compensation Regarding Compensation to Deacons
- Support for Evangelism in the Life of the Diocese of Vermont
- Courtesy Resolution: Thanking and Commending the Bishop Discernment and Nominating Committee
- Courtesy Resolution: Thanking and Commending the Transition Committee
- Courtesy Resolution: Thanking and Commending the Consecration Planning Committee and Participants
- Courtesy Resolution: Welcoming the Eleventh Bishop of Vermont and Her Family
Nearly all open positions for Diocesan Committee and Board Members to be elected or appointed at Convention were filled, and the final listing will be posted and announced in the next edition of The Mountain. The single exception was the Financial Oversight & Audit Committee, which is still in need of one clergy or lay member. A complete description of the Committee’s role can be found here, and those interested in serving are asked to contact Laura Buel (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The October 26 gathering marked the 187th annual Convention since the formal recognition of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont. However, it was the 229th annual assembly of Vermont Episcopalians since the denomination organized in the area today known as the State of Vermont.