As a member of the Vestry, I was very interested in this particular reading. In this letter from Paul to Timothy, as Timothy was trying to shepherd the new Christian church in Ephesus, Paul is giving instruction as to how to handle the “elders” of the Church. Oh what I wouldn’t give for a modern day letter from Paul to our Vestry members telling us what to do!
Of course, we have our Scripture which describes how elders are to lead, and there are many verses on this issue. In fact, they are overwhelming when looking at both the Old Testament and New Testament in regards to rules and laws. You could spend your entire term on the Vestry getting to know these verses and what they mean to you.
Paul says in his letter to Timothy (paraphrased) to be careful about judging the elders and he cites Scripture in making his point. Don’t accept an accusation unless you have two or three witnesses. It’s amazing that, in some cases, not much has changed in 2000 years when it comes to the human spirit. On the other hand, Paul makes clear that any Elder who persists in sin must be publicly rebuked. How horrible would that be today? Probably just as bad as in those days I would venture to guess.
I must tell you that the responsibility of being a Vestry member weighs heavily. But, for me, the predominant weight comes not from the time and energy the job takes, but from the fear of not being able to discern and fulfill that which God would have me do during my term.
I went to Episcopal Church Camp in the summers in California when I was young. We had a “Winnie the Pooh Tree” in which secret messages, written backwards, would be waiting for us every now and again, particularly when we were homesick. These messages meant so much to us. What I wouldn’t give to be able to take a walk, put my hand into the hollow of a tree and pull out a written explanation of what God would have us do for St. Matthews!
So, I would ask that you keep your entire Vestry in your prayers as you read these verses from 1st Timothy. May our “good works be conspicuous” so that you can rest assured that St. Matthews is on the right track.