Vestry Member Position Description

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Canons (church laws) and Bylaws Cited in this document include


The Vestry is the council of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church. In addition to transacting the temporal business of the church, the vestry works with the Rector and the Bishop to lead the congregation in the ministries of the church. Following the model of servant leadership, each member of the vestry is responsible for the effectiveness of our ministries, shaping and guiding them for the growth of the people of the congregation, and for our mission to the community beyond our walls. Members of the Vestry are also committed to personal growth as leaders and to ministering to one another in Christian community. (TEC I.14, EDSD II.6, SMEC IV)


Vestry members serve a three-year term beginning and ending at an Annual Parish Meeting on the last Sunday of January (EDSD II.6.00, SMEC III.6), with the terms staggered so that each year approximately one-third of the members are replaced (EDSD II.6.01). Vacancies can be filled by the Vestry itself, or by the parish at-large at a Parish Meeting. Members who serve a partial term of one year or less are eligible for re-election to a full term (SMEC IV.6).

Meeting Times and Location

Vestry meetings currently are held on the second Monday of each month at 4 p.m. in the Karns Administration Building Conference Room, and the Vestry annual reconsiders and revises its own schedule at its February meeting. The Vestry often does not meet in July or August. Annual Vestry events include the following, and attendance by Vestry members is strongly urged:

  • New Vestry Orientation: Second Monday in February, 4-6 p.m.
  • Convocations (gatherings of the full congregation)
    • Fall Convocation: First Sunday of November (led by Clergy/Staff)
    • Financial/Budget Overview: Second Sunday of January (led by Treasurer)
    • Annual Parish Meeting: Last Sunday of January
    • Spring Convocation: Fifth Sunday of Lent (led by Vestry/Commissions)
    • Vestry Alumni Gathering: Friday Evening, 9 Days before Annual meeting
    • Vestry Retreat
      • Fall: Third Friday in September and Saturday following (on-site)
      • Lent: Friday and Saturday before 3 Lent (off-site)

Ministry Leadership

After consulting with the individual Vestry members themselves about their gifts and interests, the Rector and Wardens appoint each Vestry member as a liaison for one major area of ministry corresponding to ministry Commissions. The Commissions represent the leadership of each of its constituent working ministry teams or committees. Each Commission is assigned one or more staff representatives. The Vestry liaison normally is not the chair of the Commission, but may be. This is not intended to be a hierarchical structure: The Commissions are not “in charge” of the ministries they represent, but help facilitate the work of ministry, including communication among constituent groups. Collaboration across Commission lines is encouraged.

Small groupings of Vestry members confer with each other in breakout sessions of monthly Vestry meetings under the leadership or one of the Wardens or the Treasurer as indicated below. New Vestry members are nominated based on several factors, including their perceived strengths in one or more areas in which openings are being created by the ending of some members’ terms. At-large members replace the Wardens (normally once a year), which creates more openings for assignment of incoming Vestry members.

Vestry members rotate responsibility for leading a brief worship service of Compline at the end of each Vestry meeting. (See BCP p. 127.) Vestry members also rotate through assignments as “Rector’s Chaplain” after the 10 a.m. Eucharist, and rotate through assignments to offer hospitality to newcomers at monthly welcome gatherings in Meyers Hall after the 10 a.m. Eucharist.

Vestry members are Directors of the Corporation under the sections 9210-9260 (Nonprofit Religious Corporations / Directors and Management) of the California Corporations Code, and are indemnified by the parish bylaws and insured by Church Insurance Company of Vermont.


Eligibility requirements for Vestry service are as follows:
(EDSD II.5.0 and II.6.0)

  • 18 or more years of age
  • attendant at worship
  • a regular contributor of record
  • registered in the congregation for at least 60 days as
    • a baptized person
      (a person who has “received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, whether in this Church or in another Christian Church, and whose Baptisms have been duly recorded in this Church”) (TEC I.17.1)
    • or
    • a communicant member
      (“a baptized person who has received Holy Communion in this Church at least three times during the preceding year”) (TEC I.17.2(a))

Candidates for Vestry should be men and women of prayer, with gifts for ministry leadership. Those gifts are not the same for each person, and can be discerned together with the Rector or other parish leaders. Candidates should have a passion for the mission and ministry of St. Margaret’s, and be known and trusted in the parish.

The Vestry Nominating Committee considers the following factors in selecting its slate of nominees:

  1. A mixture of long-time members and relative newcomers is desirable, including those who have demonstrated effective Vestry leadership in the past, but newcomers normally ought to have been active in the congregation for at least 18 months.
  2. Prior leadership outside of St. Margaret’s is good evidence of leadership potential.
  3. Insofar as it is possible, the composition of the Vestry should reflect the diversity of the congregation as that pertains to gender, age, economic advantage, sexual orientation, ethnicity, full-time vs. seasonal residence, and preferences in worship time and style.
  4. Vestry members should be willing to commit to exercising leadership in their financial support of the parish by making and honoring pledges and by committing to make St. Margaret’s a substantial financial priority as best that is defined by individual Vestry members.
  5. Vestry members must be willing to act collegially by their collective action, and to abide by the lawful decisions of the Vestry and the officers of the parish.
  6. Willingness and ability to communicate electronically is very desirable.
  7. Membership in another congregation where an alternate residence is kept, including Vestry or other governing board leadership there, is not a barrier to Vestry service at St. Margaret’s, so long as no conflict of interest exists.
  8. Vestry service is neither a reward for prior service nor a means by which members might be encouraged to participate more actively in the life of the congregation.

Additional Expectations of Vestry Members

  • Vestry members should attend Vestry meetings regularly. In the event that any Vestry Member has been absent/unexcused from three consecutive, regular meetings of the Vestry, the seat of the Vestry Member, with the advice and consent of the Rector, may be declared vacant by the Vestry and a qualified Member of the Parish shall be elected to fill the vacancy. (SMEC IV.6.c)
  • Vestry members should be regular in worship, and attend public functions of the parish when possible.
  • Vestry members should be willing to listen to the hopes and concerns of parishioners and bring those to the full Vestry for open discussion and follow-up.
  • The Vestry is a deliberative body. We listen to each other carefully and respectfully. We take action when everyone has been heard, and is persuaded that the decision-making process is fair. Vestry members are not required to agree with all the decisions of the group or to conceal their disagreement, but they are expected to support the group’s decisions and the integrity of the Vestry and its officers.
  • Vestry members keep confidentiality when required, and do not engage in gossip.
  • Vestry members have a fiduciary responsibility to support the mission, ministry, and purposes of the leadership of St. Margaret’s, the Diocese of San Diego, and the Episcopal Church.
  • Vestry members lead a life worthy of their calling, as described in Ephesians 4, and as promised in our Baptismal Covenant (BCP pp. 304-5).

Standing for Election

Election to the Vestry is governed by Canon I.14 of the Episcopal Church, Canon II.6 of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, and Article IV.1-4,6 and V.2 of the Bylaws of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church.

At least 90 days before the Annual Parish Meeting on the last Sunday of January, the Senior Warden appoints a Vestry Nominating Committee of five members including at least one outgoing Vestry member and at least one member of the parish who is not a member of the Vestry. The Committee normally returns its slate of candidates to the Vestry on the second Monday of December.

Members of the Parish may apply directly to the Chair of the Committee [download application here], or may recommend third parties to the Chair for consideration. Candidates for the Vestry are asked to submit a photograph and a brief biographical statement for publication. Third party recommendations from Clergy, seated Vestry, staff, and/or family members of potential candidates are appropriate and welcome. The Committee’s action on the recommendation will remain confidential and will not be communicated back to the person making the recommendation.

Other individuals may be nominated from the Parish Membership at large, provided the proposed names have been submitted in writing to the Clerk of the Vestry no later than three weeks before the Annual Meeting.

Last updated: September 10, 2018 at 19:32 pm