Even before the recent alarming surge in COVID-19 transmissions throughout Illinois, one of our Eucharistic Communities brought to my attention the difficulty in planning for the customary (and canonically mandatory) Annual Parish Meeting in January. It’s one thing to gather prudently and safely for worship as we have been doing. It’s another to have an extended in-person meeting, with lots of vocal interaction, and in an environment where a high percentage of those who would ordinarily be present and voting are understandably fearful of attending.
Of course, Zoom, or one of the other video platforms, is an option. This worked quite well for us, from a technical standpoint, for our annual diocesan synod last month. But, that was only possible as a result of some quite significant and careful planning and labor on the part of a small group of people, one in particular. I can easily understand that pulling off an annual meeting on Zoom would be daunting even to some of our fairly tech-savvy communities.
As we have learned, “coronatide” is a season that has presented situations for which our standard operating procedures–canons and rules of order–simply offer no help. Some elasticity and improvisation is called for. While the Bishop has no canonical authority to “freeze” a Mission Leadership Team, we have nonetheless done so many times for parishes in pastoral transition. From that same position of pastoral responsiveness, I am granting permission–indeed, encouragement–for Eucharistic Communities to not hold a 2021 annual meeting, or to delay it until such time as it is reasonably safe to hold one. This would require a majority vote of the current Mission Leadership Team, and the concurrence of the Rector/Vicar/Priest-in-Charge. The result would be that wardens and MLT members would remain in place until such time as elections are able to be held. In the event a warden or MLT member is unable or unwilling to continue in that role, then the applicable by-laws of the Eucharistic Community would pertain. Absent any such document, the counsel of the Bishop should be sought.
This may not quite be a “desperate” time that calls for “desperate measures,” but it is certainly a challenging time that calls for creative thinking and some extra flexibility. Be assured of my daily prayers for the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Springfield.
Feast of Charles Simeon, 2020