I've spent the weekend at the Diocesan Synod in Palmerston North. Rather than saying it all over again, I've posted here the reflection on Synod that I wrote for our parish magazine.
‘Would you be interested in attending Synod in September as an under-35 delegate for our parish?’ This email from our vicar came completely out of the blue. I had no idea that Synod even had under-35 representatives (usually “youth” to me means under twenty!), nor that St James would want to send one – and least of all, that that person would be me! I accepted with joy and a certain amount of trepidation to attend my first Diocesan Synod.
Synod to me was experiencing the power of story: our individual stories, our stories as a Diocese and as a wider Anglican Church, all held and contained in the great and wonderful Story where we are the hands and feet of our God in this life we live.
The Bishop drew on the image of the thousands of flocking starlings (like our smaller flock of birds that give amazing aerial displays around St James) on Ot Moor in the UK in his Charge to the Synod. He noted that the Church goes through periodic upheavals about every 500 years (the birth of Jesus, the beginnings of the monastic movement in the 500s, the Great Schism in 1051, the Reformation) that require us to think about leadership and what makes and marks us as Christians. A number of scholars think that we may be moving into one of those periods of great change. This is both scary and tremendously exciting: what does God have in mind for us as followers of Jesus the Christ? How do we need to be alive to the loving guidance of the Spirit of God, and obedient to the promptings to trust and transformation?
It was exciting to see this vision in the Bishop’s Charge grounded in the motion passed by Synod endorsing the outcomes of the Diocesan Visioning in May, and the change that this prayerful, open process has had within our Diocese and our mission units. What new stories have started as a result of this open process? Where might God be whispering a new theme to us?
Connecting with God; connecting with old friends and new ones; connecting with the Church; connecting with the (sometimes labyrinthine) Diocesan processes. Mission Moments scattered throughout the business made us stop and think about the reason why we were all there: to facilitate the work of God, and showed us what some of those works were. We heard from the Anglican Schools, Urban Vision, Care for Creation, Loved 4 Life, and so many others. I was astonished and moved all over again at the diversity of care and love that we Anglicans offer to our troubled and hurting worlds, both here in our local communities and more widely.
Prayer was an integral part of this Synod. Periodically, a bell was rung and we all sat in silent prayer for two minutes, holding the intentions of the Synod before God. The intensity of those times of yearning before God was palpable and I know it changed the way we debated issues presented to us as we listened to the Storyteller whispering in our hearts.
The other delegates were great people to spend a weekend with. Wine was drunk, chocolate was eaten, laughter and tales were told, some more wine was drunk, and deeper bonds were forged between us all. Friendships within the Belmont Archdeaconry were strengthened over a leisurely Thai meal on Saturday night, with much sparkling conversation and stories flowing around the table.
This Synod told a story: the story of a Church where motions debated and passed formed the bones of the new stories to come in our Church. We heard some of the ways that Spirit is narrating new ways of being with each other and the grace and love that comes from that process of telling and listening intently to each other. It was a privilege to hear God whisper “Those that have ears, let them hear”.