Gathered in hope as a people of faith and grounded in the Gospel, nearly 300 clergy and lay representatives to synod met on November 8 and 9 at the Lincoln Alexander Centre in Hamilton.
The theme for the 145th synod of the diocese of Niagara, “Sing to the Lord A New Song”, was woven throughout its reports, presentations, and resolutions. Stories of life-giving, spirit-filled ministry were also in abundance; stories of the discipleship of Chinese Anglicans in Oakville, of the pastoral care provided to migrant farmworkers, and of the warm welcome received by refugees sponsored by our parishes.
In her Charge to Synod, Bishop Susan Bell, filled with joy and hope, proclaimed “We in Niagara are in an exciting place … we are at the same time being buffeted by the waves of the storm as also seeing the green shoots of new growth. There is something profoundly biblical about where we are: in the already and the not yet.”
The Bishop also encouraged the people of the diocese “to commit to renewing and refreshing” their faith, as well as finding where their gifts could be used for ministry. “We have all been called to minister in and with our communities, transformed by an encounter with Jesus, in a new and missional way.”
The synod responded to this theme and through its actions, began a new song for the diocese by:
- affirming the draft missional direction, Called to Life – Compelled to Love, arising from the work of the Mission Action Plan leadership consultation;
- approving Canon 4.9 which gives the bishop, with the approval of synod council, the authority to designate diocesan missions for particular areas or mission work;
- declaring a climate emergency and urging advocacy and action to address it;
- watching the Primate’s Apology for Spiritual Harm as an act of reconciliation; and
- expressing steadfast solidarity with the local and global LGBTQ2S+ community, affirming the prophetic witness of Bishop Michael Bird and Bishop Susan Bell, and receiving the affirmations contained with the “Word to the Church”.
The synod’s featured speaker, Bishop Bill Cliff of the diocese of Brandon, built on its theme as he helped members unpack the gospel story of Jesus walking on the turbulent sea. He urged the synod to have faith like Peter’s, to get out of the boat, and to join Jesus in the midst of a world that is more turbulent than the safety of the boat.
As part of its work, the synod also elected regional representatives to serve on synod council and approved the 2020 diocesan budget.
“Our diocesan budget represents a 3.4-million dollar investment in God’s mission of love,” said Canon Pat Davis, chair of the diocesan budget subcommittee. “It helps equip the faithful and hard-working clergy and lay people, at all levels of the Church, to do the ministry the Spirit is calling them to do.”
In a new feature, the Comfy Couch Chat, Deacon Michael Coren moderated a question and answer session between Bishop Bell, Bishop Cliff, and members of synod. The questions dealt with everything from how to best learn more about the Bible, to how we can make a difference in our world. The bishops shared some of their personal journeys, and how they have seen the story of Jesus best told simply by leaving the church building and meeting people “where they’re at.”
Stories of spiritual renewal came up time and again during the synod, perhaps most poignantly during a celebration of the One Thing initiative. At the start of this year, Bishop Susan invited people to try out one thing which would bring them closer to God and hundreds of people did just that. At one point, members of synod were enveloped by ribbons showcasing some of the many ‘one thing’ commitments made as a result.
As synod closed, Bishop Bell encouraged members to return to their parishes and share the stories they heard alongside their experiences, working with their parishes to “get out of the boat and walk with Jesus.”
A new song for the diocese has begun …
The Niagara Anglican asked a random sampling of synod delegates to answer three questions about this year’s Synod meeting… here are some of their responses.
What excited me about Synod
- That we actually talked more about matters of Faith than business
- The “what next” moment we are stepping into
- Bishop Susan speaking about Spiritual Refreshment, and then modelling in through how she chaired the meeting and turned it into an opportunity for rich spiritual growth
- That we are “unofficially” in a time of New Reformation in the Church
- The opening worship
What surprised me about Synod
- That Jesus was there
- The amount of time devoted to worship and theological reflection
- The budget and stewardship development focused on stories and vision, rather than numbers and statistics
- The fresh look at John’s gospel of Jesus walking on the water, and the call of Jesus to each of us to “get out of the boat”
What I’m taking home from Synod
- Excitement around Called to Life – Compelled to Love
- A sense of Hope for our diocese in this current period of uncertainty
- Renewed Spiritual Energy around “Called to Life – Compelled to Love”
- That we are not alone in our struggles, Jesus is there and so is the rest of the diocese.
- A set of wooden utensils