Affirmed by the Vestry as amended, February 1, 2013.
In 2004 the Vestry recognized that effective and honest communication is an intentional practice and, with the help of a facilitator, worked together to write and approve the guidelines below. Succeeding vestries have reviewed and approved the guidelines since their original adoption in 2004.
The guidelines promote a positive means for communication among vestry members, in their interactions with members of the congregation, and within St. Mark’s as a community. They embrace values such as honesty, integrity, courtesy, respect, openness, and the ability to let go of issues and conflicts once they have been fully discussed. We practice these guidelines, striving for personal growth as we build stronger relationships within the community. As members of the Vestry and the greater community of St. Mark’s, our hope is that we all will endeavor to practice these guidelines faithfully, and with a spirit of forgiveness for each other and ourselves. (Preamble adopted February 6, 2009)
- When speaking with others, I will seek to be honest and direct.
- When I have a problem/controversy with someone, I will let them know and will address that problem/controversy with them.
- When I need to address a problem/controversy with someone, I’ll set up a time to talk with them about it, letting them know what the issue is.
- I will listen to others and check that I have understood them clearly.
- I won’t say I’m in agreement with you when I’m not.
- I will treat everyone as a partner, recognizing we all have feelings and investments in issues.
- I won’t keep rehashing issues and repeating the same conversations about them.
- I will use considerate language that avoids personal judgment or attacks.
- I will speak the truth as I know it, and I will listen to your truth as you know it.
- Though I recognize that from time to time the Vestry will make decisions that differ from my point of view, I will commit to our shared ministries.
The principles underlying these channels are grounded in our desire to learn how to discern whether or not information needs to be passed on and to whom, in the hope that information will get to where it needs to be and not where it doesn’t need to be.
- When someone approaches me with information that needs attention, and if I’m the appropriate Vestry Partner, I’ll contact the appropriate Ministry Chair, and we’ll decide what to do with the information. (If I am not the appropriate Vestry Partner, I’ll connect the information bearer with the appropriate Vestry Partner or get permission to use the information bearer’s name in talking with the appropriate Vestry Partner.)
- If the information needs to go to the Vestry/Clergy, either I or the Ministry Chair will contact the Senior Warden or Clergy, who together will decide whether the whole Vestry needs to be included, or if another approach is appropriate. If it is determined that a third party mediator would be beneficial, resources may be sought from the Diocese.
- When a parishioner brings to my attention anonymous concerns (of a positive or negative nature), I will encourage that person to talk with the appropriate Vestry Partner. I will thank the parishioner and if necessary tell the parishioner that we have a policy of not communicating anonymous concerns. I may suggest that I go with the parishioner to talk with the appropriate Vestry Partner.
- If conflicts arise which cannot be resolved directly between persons within the parish structure, third party mediators from the Diocese may be used.
- In cases not involving a grievance, but which relate to safety or practical issues, I might decide to take responsibility for/act on information from someone who wishes to remain anonymous.
An Agreement by the Vestry of St. Mark’s with regard to the Communications Covenant
- I agree to make every effort to use this living document in my interactions with others and in doing my work as a Vestry person, realizing that this is a working model. I also recognize that we may come from varied cultures and have different communication styles. I will be respectful when interacting with others.
- When letting others know that I sense the principles aren’t being observed, I will be kind and respectful and will refer to the language of the working model to talk about my feelings/thoughts.
- At our annual Vestry Retreat , or at another time agreed to by the Vestry/Clergy, I will participate in an evaluation of the working model, with the hope of making whatever adjustments are needed to enhance truthful, respectful communication at St. Mark’s.
- As a Vestry member, I support our communicating with the membership about our commitment and desire to adopt a model for communication to be used throughout the parish.
- When I need to process my thoughts and feelings I will choose someone who can keep a confidence and I will name what I am doing.
- When someone asks me to help them process their thoughts and feelings, I will listen attentively without judging or assuming responsibility for what I am hearing.
- I will practice these guidelines with a spirit of forgiveness, for others and myself.