Interacting with the Diocese: Calendar and Guide
Table of Contents
Feb./March 31 – Begin Parochial Report/Due to Diocese | April 15 – Annual Convention Forms due to Bishop’s Office | August 31 – Audits and Financial Reporting due to Bishop’s Office | 30 days before Annual Convention (Oct. 14) – Parish Pledge due to Bishop’s Office | Fresh Start (for clergy)
Visitations | Mutual Ministry Reviews | Clergy/Church Professional Retreats and Conferences | Shrine Mont Camps | Misconduct Prevention Training | Remarriage Petitions | Licensing for Lay Ministers | Discernment/Ordination Process
- Feb. — Begin pulling together Parochial Report. (Due March 31)
- Apr. 15 — Annual Convention forms due to the Bishop’s Office (forms)
- May 1 — Parochial Report due to the National Church (info)
- Aug. 31 — Audits and Other Financial Reporting due to the Bishop’s Office
- We recommend you begin the process in February or March.
- Nov. 30 — Parish’s Pledge to the Diocese due to Bishop’s Office (info)
Event Details & Need-to-Know
Please consult the instructions linked above to create a new user ID and password for your church. The rector will fill out some of the form, the treasurer will fill out other parts, and the Vestry needs to vote to approve it prior to submission, which means this should be started in time to approve it at the March Vestry meeting. Read more.
To notify the diocese of delegates elected to Diocesan Convention, the rector will first need to determine how many delegates the church is eligible to send. This is done following the formula on the Confirmed Communicants in Good Standing form, found on the webpage above. It usually doesn’t change much from year to year, unless the church recently “scrubbed the rolls” (i.e., removed a sizable number inactive parishioners from the church's rolls). After submitting the CCGS form, the vestry will need to elect someone for each delegate slot, plus at least one alternate. Both of these forms need to be sent to the Convention Registrar at Mayo House (contact above).
Every parish is required by canon to audit its financial records annually, including the discretionary funds.
External audits (i.e., hiring an accounting firm to do an audit) can be cost-prohibitive for smaller parishes, so there are two options to consider if the parish can’t afford a full audit. If a parish is small (budget under $150,000), the rector may decide to use an internal audit committee to do this work.
Important: The parish’s treasurer, finance chair, or Vestry members should not be on an internal audit team. The rector will need people with a fresh set of eyes to keep the process clean and helpful. The upside is cost: Parishioners who serve on this team are volunteering their time and talents. The downside is that it isn’t as deep a review, and in those rare situations where something doesn’t seem right, team members might rationalize what they see rather than say something is wrong. There are guidelines and a template for internal audit teams to do their work on the audits webpage.
Agreed-Upon Procedures: Another alternative for the small parish is to contract with an outside accounting firm to do a review using “agreed-upon procedures.” This “mini-audit” is significantly less expensive than a full external audit, and gives the parish the benefit of the advice of a professional. It is not a full audit. If there are problems, since the review is based on a relatively small sample of transactions, something may be missed. It is also described in detail on the audits webpage.
Mission congregations may have some additional requirements relating to the work of the Committee on Congregational Missions (CCM). Questions about the those requirements should be addressed to the CCM liaison.
Each year, parishes pledge a portion of their unrestricted operating income to the Diocese to support our shared mission. In other dioceses, there is often a fixed percentage of giving assessed of all the churches. In Virginia, your parish is asked to give according to The Virginia Plan for Proportional Giving. This plan suggests a sliding scale of proportional giving (from 9 to 17 percent) based upon an average of your annual giving over the past few years.
If your parish is not giving in alignment with the plan, please work with your Vestry and finance team to develop a plan to increase giving over the next few years to bring the parish’s giving up to the level consistent with the Virginia Plan. Remember that the Diocese can only help its parishes if it has the resources to do so. If you would like someone to speak to your Vestry or parish about the importance of pledging, please let us know.
Fresh Start is a two-year program that seeks to strengthen the relationships among clergy, congregations and the Diocese during times of transition. The program gathers clergy in new positions for ministry development and collegiality.
The curriculum covers essential topics such as church and clergy finance, conflict transformation, change management, and self-care. In addition to the topical presentations by knowledgeable speakers, Fresh Start seeks to draw on the “wisdom in the room” by creating space for clergy to share resources, stories, and to seek advice.
Visitation Schedule: In September 2017, the Bishops began making one visitation per Sunday, which means that many churches will not get an Episcopal visit every year. Instead, churches will have substantive, quality time with the visiting bishop; and churches won’t have afternoon visitations (unless that’s what the church wants!). Bishops will now be able to participate in adult forums, Vestry meetings, parish lunches, or whatever else the parish might need. Every year there will be regional confirmation services available to parishes that don’t have a visit scheduled for that year.
Rescheduling: Visitations are scheduled well in advance and are generally not reschedule-able. If you would like to move the time of year or day of your visitation, it should be because of compelling and unique circumstances. With a year's notice or more, it is possible to consider moving the time of year for the visit.
Before the Visit: There are several forms related to visitations. These are designed to help the bishops understand your context and desires, and to respond to special requests within reason.
- Guidelines for Rites of Initiation, meant to lend clarity to the process of preparing persons for those rites,
- A checklist explaining the timetable for the documents the bishop’s office will need,
- Pre-visitation form that should be returned three weeks prior to the Bishop’s visit.
- Post-visitation form that should be returned as soon as possible after the visitation.
It is the norm that the loose plate collection at the visitation is set aside for the bishop’s discretionary fund. The number of priests and parishes that has been helped in large and small ways as a result of that fund is amazing!
Diocesan Contact: The Rev. Sarah Brockenbrough
The Letter of Agreement for rectors should require a Mutual Ministry Review after a certain period of service – typically one year – and should be facilitated by someone from the Transition Ministry Office or a trained, diocesan recommended consultant. MMRs use tools and conversation to check-in on the shared ministry of the new rector and the parish (via the Vestry). They are not performance evaluations for the priest but a time to name expectations -- stated and unstated, met and unmet -- and provide focus for the work of the rector and Vestry in the years ahead.
Contact: Anita Lisk, Executive Assistant to the Bishops
Clergy should build them into their schedule. Bishop Goff expects clergy to attend, and hopes to see lay professionals at the fall retreat. The mid-October conference is for lay professionals, clergy, and spouses; the spring conference is a retreat for clergy. It is important to make time to be refreshed and renewed and to learn from each other.
Details: Camp registration typically begins in January of each year. Your parish should receive a brochure or poster each year. Dates, pricing and descriptions are available at shrinemontcamps.net.
About: Shrine Mont Camps is one of the crown jewels of diocesan programming—it offers nine different camps for campers from eight years old, to late teens, to the “young at heart.” Each camp has a thematic and theological focus: sports, the outdoors, drama, art. There is even a camp for families (aptly named Family Camp), a camp for children on the autism spectrum or with severe ADHD (St. Andrew's), and a camp for those with mild to moderate disabilities (St. Elizabeth’s). Every camp is a lot of fun and provides Christian formation of a caliber that’s nearly impossible to find in another setting.
Be a Chaplain: Each session of each camp has a chaplain, often a diocesan priest, so if you feel a call to camp chaplaincy, get in touch with Paris Ball! Camp sessions range from a few days to two full weeks, so chaplaincy is not an all-summer commitment.
There is no set time for a parish to do misconduct prevention training, but we recommend that your parish examines who needs to be trained or re-trained quarterly (or bi-annually in small parishes) and set out a plan to get those folks trained. There are two methods to receive training, online and in-person. The webpage includes a guide to get started with online training, which includes a grid showing which trainings are required for various ministries.
There are clear guidelines for marriage on the diocesan website, whether the marriage is of a straight or gay couple. When a priest is asked to preside at the marriage of a couple where one or both of the parties has been divorced, the priest must petition the Bishop for permission. Note: If one or both of the parties has been divorced more than once, they must see a professional counselor who has the skill to determine if the issues that caused the divorces have been rectified and if the parties can enter into the sacrament of marriage fully committed to its responsibilities.
Please provide ample time prior to the planned wedding to counsel the couple and, if necessary, to refer them to a counselor. If they have been divorced and you are petitioning the Bishop for permission to remarry, you should not consent to do the marriage until the Bishop’s consent is received.
The Bishop licenses Lay Eucharistic Ministers, Lay Eucharistic Visitors, Lay Preachers, and, on occasion, Lay Catechists and Lay Pastoral Leaders. Readers and intercessors do not need to be licensed. These licenses are in effect for three years, and are only valid for service at the church the license issued to. In many cases, lay ministers are required to take misconduct prevention training.
Check and see what the practice is at your parish vis-à-vis the license cards that are sent by the Bishop’s Office: Some parishes give the cards to the licensed persons after making a copy for the parish files; some keep the original and give a copy to the licensed person. The parish administrator should set calendar reminders to renew licenses after three years, or you can put the responsibility on the lay minister to remind you, but the form should be submitted by the church rather than the individual.
- Dates and process. New clergy with parishioners in the discernment process: it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Virginia's discernment process, and to make contact with Ed Keithly, Vocational Development Minister, who manages the ordination process, to get a sense of where that person is in the process, and what you might need to know to best serve your parishioner.