THE VESTRY | Who are they and what do they do?

Peet DickinsonIf The Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul is a body, then what is the function of that member of the body known as the Vestry?  In our tradition, the Vestry shares with the Dean in the spiritual leadership of the parish.  Saint Paul gives a helpful description in his letter to the Ephesians of what spiritual leadership is all about.  According to chapter 4 verses 12-13, it is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  Jesus Christ is the head of the Body, and leaders, be they clergy or lay, are called to minister to the Body so that the Body can minister outwardly to the world.

In our church, the community of lay leaders called upon by God to exercise this ministry is the Vestry.  Our Vestry is made up of the Dean, the Senior Warden, the Junior Warden, and nine members (three members in each class serving for three year terms).  The Senior Warden is the chief lay advisor to the Dean and leader from the congregation.  The Junior Warden is the leader with specific focus on all matters relating to the physical plant of the church.

The ministry of the Vestry is one that is interdependent with that of the Dean all under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the apostolic leadership of the Bishop.  So, how does this interdependence work?  Under the canons (that is the Ecclesiastical laws for our common life in the Diocese of South Carolina) the Dean/Rector is given full authority and responsibility for the spiritual life and worship of the congregation, including use and control of the church and parish buildings, but the Vestry has full authority and responsibility for the fiscal well being of the parish property, both financial and physical.

In the end, this means that leadership like other aspects of the life of the body is only healthy when there is mutual love and submission.  Again, St. Paul is helpful as he describes the relationships between the various parts of the body.  In 1 Corinthians 12:21-22, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”  He goes on in verse 25 to speak of why God has created the body this way.  It is so “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

This picture of mutual submission and care for one another is a very different picture than that of democratic representative government.  The Vestry is a part of the body and no member of the Vestry represents a particular constituency.  Instead, the Vestry are the chief servants to the whole of the body, and although the various members bring unique gifts and perspectives, they serve as one.

As The Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul continues to live into our vision of Being the Heart of God for the Heart of Charleston, your Vestry members are in constant prayer and discernment as to how this vision can be realized best.  If you have questions or ideas, this group is always prepared to receive those and to give them due consideration.  Know that any Vestry meeting (usually held on the fourth Monday of the month at 6:00) is open to anyone who would like to attend.  The only exception to this is the very rare occasion when the Vestry decides to go into executive session in order to discuss particularly delicate and confidential matters.

We are blessed to have a wonderfully gifted and gracious group of leaders on our Vestry.  Please keep them along with the clergy and staff in your prayers, and be assured that we are keeping you in our prayers.


Our current Vestry members are:

Dean & Rector – The Rev. Peet Dickinson
Senior Warden – Charles Marshall
Junior Warden – Frank Prochazka
Class of 2015 – Becky Johnston, Adam Temple, Kaye Wallace
Class of 2016 – Tom Hample, Dana Holladay, Tom Jones
Class of 2017 – Andrew Alwine, Stafford Stinson, Courtnay Thompson