The Speed of Transition - Our Diocese and
Bishop Shannon are Full Speed Ahead!
It was a mere four weeks ago tha Bishop Shannon was consecrated the 11th Bishop of the
Diocese of Vermont. Already she has presided over her first Diocesan Convention taking place
this past Saturday! The delegates gathered at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Burlington to
discuss and discern the business of the Diocese.
One can only imagine the "learning curve" for our new Bishop to absorb all that presiding at a convention entails, not to mention taking on leadership of all the many facts and faces of the life of our Diocese as our Bishop.
The atmosphere of the convention was harmonious and high spirited, with Bishop Shannon occasionally consulting the Chancellor (Tom Little) and Canon to the Ordinary (Lynn Bates) for points of procedure and process. As we have become accustomed to, the topnotch technical and video expertise of our Communications Minister Maurice Harris, gave everyone large screens nearby to view close-up all speakers, documents, and worship materials! A remarkable job well done!
An unexpected piece of business -
Among the various resolutions at each convention it is the responsibility of the Diocesan Council (the "vestry" of the Diocese) to recommend levels of compensation of clergy serving parishes. This year, the Province of New England has recommended a 2.8% increase in minimum clergy compensation and the Diocesan Council has followed suit. HOWEVER, this year, the Deacons of our Diocese presented a landmark amendment regarding COMPENSATION FOR DEACONS SERVING PARISHES!!
Have no fear, this is not a runaway financial boondoggle that is being proposed. It DOES involve some information that most of those in the pews know little or nothing about, namely, the many dimensions of the support and benefits of the Church Pension Fund.
The Church Pension Fund provides resources for clergy and lay employees of churches in the Episcopal Church. One of the resources is CREDO, a wellness resource, that helps both active and retired clergy pension plan participants by presenting a holistic approach to wellness for mind, body, spirit, and heart. Participants examine and evaluate their health and wellness from the spiritual, vocational, physical and emotional health and financial points of view. Up to now, such opportunities have been exclusively limited to the clergy who are priests and bishops "working for pay" for the Church. Deacons in the Episcopal Church in Vermont serve in their assigned parish and diocesan positions as deacons without remuneration.
Through their yeas in ordained ministry, several of our deacons have inquired of the Church Pension Fund if they could attend CREDO conferences. Previously they received a firm "No!". However, surprisingly, in recent conversations representatives of the Church Pension Fund have stated that if deacons were paid a nominal amount these deacons would be eligible for these wellness benefits.
This proposed amendment asks that congregations make such a nominal payment of $25 a month to deacons, as well as a payment of 18% ($4.50) to the Church Pension Fund to enable them to participate in the programs and benefits available through the Church Pension Fund.
Now, with passage of this amendment to our Diocesan Compensation Resolution, the Pension Fund has indicated that these wellness benefits would be open to deacons serving parishes, such as our Peggy Mathauer. The proposed $354 total per year is a very small proce to pay for any congregation with an assigned deacon.
No doubt there will be details to be worked out with the Pension Fund to implement this. But the passage of this aspect of the Diocesan Clergy Compensation Resolution goes a long way toward recognizing the service and dedication of our deacons.
As a footnote: Also at the convention, we were made mindful that there are other non- stipendiary clergy who serve parishes, particularly priests raised up out of covenant or Local Ministry Support Teams. Further study and exploration will be required as to how and whether the wellness programs of the pension Fund could be opened to these clergy.