by Claire Christoff
It was mid-October and I was flipping quickly through emails when an unknown message popped up in my inbox — an invitation to join the Electoral Synod Nominations and Planning Committee (ESNPC)?
I was shocked at the realization that I had been selected as the Diocese of Niagara youth representative to this important committee, the one that would oversee the election of our new Bishop.
I was honoured, excited and especially nervous. Accepting this invitation would be stepping outside my previous experience and comfort zone. My work in youth ministry was my specialty, and I knew the people, the places and the way things worked. I knew no one on the committee already, and wasn’t sure what this process would entail or what my job would be. I was, of course, apprehensive about the first meeting I was to attend. I was a 15-year-old girl in a room of diocesan staff and people who knew the church better than I did. I came to a round table full of the kind faces of my committee members, who would help guide me through this process.
It was difficult to understand all the terminology at first, and I decided fairly early on there was no harm in jumping in with a clarifying question. I kept doing this, learning, inquiring and eventually earned myself the reputation of the group Question Asker, and helped the committee keep in mind the perspectives and scope of the vast diocese, including new members, youth and more.
The most important part of this experience for me was learning all the incredible effort and detail put into events and careful planning in every step taken by the church. This committee was responsible for planning the electoral synod, running all official events for candidates, assembling profiles and overseeing so much more.
All of this amounted to months and hours of discussion, debate, countless email chains and video chats. Co-ordinated by Ann Turner and supported by every member of the committee, we worked to make the election exactly what the diocese needed it to be: organized, public and accessible.
I learned about rules and histories in the church, participated in debates over tradition versus change, and saw the way the church works as one body acting out God’s mission.
I was the link between youth ministry and the ESNPC, and helped organize a special youth meet and greet for voting youth synod members. In this event, youth got to talk to all the candidates, one-on-one, about special issues pertaining to us that may be overlooked by the greater diocese. Being able to experience this personal and informal conversational event truly helped the youth of this diocese get a better understanding of who we want as the leader of our diocese.
My advice to the church in the future is to continue to listen to the youth of our diocese.
We do have ideas and motivation, and will contribute many things when given the chance.
Experiencing this first hand, through my time on the ESNPC has given me more opportunities in the church, knowledge and a unique story I am blessed with the opportunity to tell.
Claire Christoff is active in youth ministry in Niagara Diocese as well as at her own parish of St. Christopher’s Burlington.