Imagining the AGM as a Cocktail Party

AGM calendarThis post was first published in January 2015.

Shortly after all the glitz and the gemeinshaft of Christmas, we enter into AGM season. We usually do that a bit before Lent as if in a perverse recasting of the Carnevalesque, not a world turned topsy turvy in disorder and subversion, but as a world of tedium and Roberts Rules of Order.

This isn’t just a Mennonite thing, of course. I’m pretty sure it’s a function of tax law that just about every charitable and non-profit organization in Canada has an annual winter ritual called the Annual General Meeting. The Church I grew up in always did this on Superbowl Sunday (it was supposed to end before the game). But it isn’t always January. The law is flexible enough to let a few renegades to hold their AGMs at other times of the year. I’ve known a few Churches to push the envelope all the way into late February. I also volunteered for a an organization that tried autumn AGMs once, but that organization didn’t last long.

It’s not a bad idea in principle for people in an organization to get together at least once a year. Hell, we all know about regimes where people have had to fight for the right to assembly.  Some of our own ancestors might have done that. Well, not my ancestors. They didn’t so much fight for the right as just ignore the law and create hidden places to meet in secret. Which always sounds kind of exciting. Maybe I’d be more excited about the AGM if I had to stealthily find my way through a hidden doorway to it. But that’s extreme. I really am glad to have religious freedom and the right to assembly. Honest. I am.

I just wish the assembly could be more fun. You know, like a cocktail party. Not one of those bad cocktail parties where people stand in little circles and talk of nothing but real estate and traffic routes. I mean like one of the good cocktail parties, where we could wander around with pretty drinks in our hands and exchange witticisms about that typo in the workship committee’s report and muse among ourselves whether anyone else had questions about line item 39 on the budget for the next year. And those who had questions could just mosey on over to the treasurer and ask, and those who understood just fine could remain by the bar exchanging witticisms and giggling. The problem with Annual General Meetings is that when they are bad, they are very, very bad and when they are good, they are horrid. Oh, people try to make them fun with door prizes and such. Or they set a social event after or before in an attempt to sweeten the pill. Churches will do that and also insist that the work of the AGM is part of worship, and so we sing hymns and pray throughout, thus extending the torture without actually making it any more fun.

Sometimes there are exciting controversies that draw large numbers to the AGM.  When that is the case, usually the enticing agenda items are placed at the end of the agenda so that we are all dulled by the earlier proceedings into a stupor more torpid than anything alcohol could induce. Still, those are the good meetings. Some years, there simply is no controversy to stir up our blood and we are forced to pretend, dredging up emotions and strong principles about issues we never thought we cared about until they appeared on an agenda. But if we didn’t argue about them, in a nice orderly fashion, then what would be the point?

So today we raise a glass to controversy, the AGM’s life force and savior. The cocktail’s another new one. There are pacifying cocktails out there and also belligerent ones but for the AGM, we want something in between. A quarrel yes, but not a bitter feud or a civil war pitting brethren against brethren. Just a controversy juicy enough to be enticing. And pretty enough for a fantasy AGM complete with witty banter and giggling in the back rows.


The Congregants’ QuarrelCongregants Quarrel
1/4 ounce Chambord raspberry liqueur
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur
3 ounces dry white wine, chilled

Combine the liqueurs in cocktail glass. Top with white wine and stir.

This drink is a quarrel between flowers and fruit, either of which could be metaphors of religious significance. You should taste them both, though the Chambord has a tendency to overpower the elderflower. Either liqueur works well with white wine on its own but it takes skill to have them work together.


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