By Gisele McKnight
If a theme word were chosen to sum up the 136th Diocesan Synod, it would be missional.
The day-long synod was held Nov. 4 at Christ Church (Parish) Church in Fredericton, with 75 clergy and 149 laity in attendance, plus several guests and observers. Many noted this synod was more youthful in appearance. Last year’s move to encourage parishes to send a third delegate — between the ages of 16-35 — has resulted in a younger synod membership.
In this program synod, the main part of the day was spent discussing mission, using the book, and accompanying video, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People, by Michael Frost. The acronym BELLS forms the crux of the book and the five habits: Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, Sent.
Threshold Ministries’ national director Shawn Branch was the facilitator as the five habits were illustrated, first via video from the author, and then by short interviews with five people illustrating the five points. Delegate packages included the Michael Frost book to take home. See the BELLS story for more on this (in the Nov. 14 edition of eNews), which will also include a presentation by Hockey Ministries International leader Bruce Smith.
Bishop David Edwards opened the 136th Diocesan Synod with these words: “I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq peoples.”
The Rev. David Peer was appointed recording secretary of the 136th Diocesan Synod. Bishop David thanked Canon Leo Martin for 13 years of service to Diocesan Council and Diocesan Synod as recording secretary.
The bishop introduced two new staff members. Nicole Chouinard is the financial and administrative assistant. Allyson Caldwell is the half-time assistant to the director of youth and intergenerational ministries.
Ecumenical guests included the Rev. Lisa Vaughn, the parish vitality coordinator in the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; the Rev. Richard Bowley, president of the Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada and pastor at St. Paul’s United in Fredericton; the Rev. Ralph Weigold, eastern synod representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada and of the New Denmark Lutheran Parish; and Andrew Scollick, director of vocations and recruitment at Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax.
The Rev. Christopher Ketch, a volunteer firefighter with the Beersville Fire Department, co-ordinated first aid for the day and identified all first aid volunteers present. As the new Safe Church officer, Ben Bourque noted the location of fire extinguishers and exits, and outlined the exit plan in case of emergency. He told those gathered that he appreciated the feedback on the online Safe Church training and would be making changes.
Charge to Synod
Dean of Fredericton Geoffrey Hall officiated at Morning Prayer, and then Bishop David began his much-anticipated charge to synod.
Based on Matthew 22:35-40, the bishop began by speaking about love. He cited the Tina Turner hit called “What’s love got to do with it.”
“The answer from the view point of Jesus is absolutely everything. Being a follower of Jesus is pretty simple: we are to love God through him and love our neighbours, period.
“For God so loved the world, not God so loved the church,” he reminded those gathered.
He went on to talk about the status of the diocese and the somewhat inadequate measuring sticks we have to gauge parish and diocesan health.
“In total we have 72 parishes and the cathedral. The two measures we have are giving and average attendance,” he said, adding the following statistics are from the past five years.
Twenty-six have grown numerically, with 11 showing double digit percentage growth. Eight have remained numerically stable. Fifty parishes have shown growth in average giving, of which 23 are in double percentage digits.
“Often I hear people telling me that things are going from bad to worse. I am not suggesting that we are out of the woods by any means, but there are signs of hope,” he said.
Apart from the statistics above, there are other methods to measure success, one of them being the ways in which congregations and individuals are engaged in God’s mission, he said, alluding to the BELLS presentation that would come later in the day.
The good news of some positive statistics and stories of mission, though, aren’t enough to cement a successful future for the diocese.
“If we only look to things like structures, buildings — the markers that have helped us to feel secure in the past — we will ultimately be lost.
“Please do not think that I am saying that we will not exist. I think that in some form or another we as a diocese can go on for a very long time.
“The question I have is will we exist or will we thrive? Will Jesus be glorified? Will we love? If we, as part of the church in this province, are to show Jesus, to be Jesus in our communities, then we have to be willing to be engaged with others in new and costly ways.”
With that he referred to his November column in the New Brunswick Anglican about lighthouses and rafts, a scenario he learned at the Vital Church Maritimes conference in Nova Scotia this fall. In the past, churches were seen as lighthouses for the lost. Nowadays, though, people might not even understand the function of a lighthouse. Nor will people often come to the lighthouse of their own accord.
“The situation we have now is rather like people floating on rafts across the ocean. There are small groups and large groups. People may even live on several rafts, swimming between them at different times. Each of these rafts has a culture: one may be work, the other the gym, many different things.
“The task of the church is to swim out to the rafts and join the people there,” he said. “We need to learn from them what is important for them and look to see where God is already working.
“It means that the ways in which we do mission adapt to those we seek to serve, rather than expecting them to adapt to us.”
The point, he said, is not to get hung up on packing a church building, but to be the Body of Christ in our communities.
“This leads in a direction which is very risky for us. We will be looking outwards rather than inwards. We will not be concentrating on what is good for us but what is the best for others.
“We will be making a difference in the communities where we live with the intention of seeing people enter into communion with God through Jesus the Son. If this is to happen, we have to turn to one of the basic pillars of our faith, prayer.”
To illustrate, Bishop David led the gathering in a simple, repetitive prayer: “Jesus, Saviour of the world, have mercy on us.”
That simple prayer creates an opportunity for God to intervene and for us to listen for his voice, he said, adding we have to listen and be willing to change and take risk — or we risk losing what we have.
The bishop acknowledged that mission will look different in different parishes, but he believes that risk — large or small — is the key to our future. He asked that synod members take the BELLS lessons back to their parishes and share them there.
“As your Bishop, I believe this is the direction in which we should travel as a diocese. Why? So that all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The bishop’s charge was read by many clerics on Sunday. The video of the charge will be on the diocesan website soon (anglican.nb.ca). The entire charge can be read at this link, and ask your synod delegate for their impressions as well.
Several motions were passed during the afternoon session.
- Motion 2017-09 – A Missional People, moved by David Peer, seconded by Coralie Losier that:
- a) The Diocesan Synod recommend to the Greater Chapters that their January/February meeting agenda include the video series based on the book Surprise The World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost;
- b) The Archdeacon, Lay and Cleric members of Diocesan Council from each Greater Chapter work together to provided leadership for this meeting and encourage and support the clergy, parish lay and substitute synod members and wardens to enable parishes or groups of parishes to engage with the book during Easter;
- c) Each Parish Corporation’s cleric, wardens, delegates and substitutes to synod work together to have their parish and its congregations study the book during Easter; and
- d) After Easter, the Archdeacon, Cleric, and Lay member of Diocesan Council report back to council at each meeting on the missional actions taken by parishes or groups of parishes in their Greater Chapter.
- Two motions dealt with receiving diocesan reports from various people and groups. Diocesan Synod also accepted the election reports that will form a new Diocesan Council. The new members list appears below. Please note that Diocesan Council’s entire membership includes others as well as the names that appear below.
|Chatham||Siobhan Laskey, Parish of Derby & Blackville||The Rev. Ted Quann, Parish of Chatham|
|Fredericton||Sandra Craft, Parish of New Maryland||The Rev. Christian Persaud, Parishes of Cambridge & Waterborough and Gagetown|
|Kingston & the Kennebecasis||Robert Taylor, Parish of Rothesay||The Rev. Tom Stradwick, Parish of Sussex|
|Moncton||Cheryl Young, Parish of Salisbury & Havelock||The Rev. Chris Hayes|
|Saint John||Coralie Losier, Parish of St. Mark||The Rev. Canon David Barrett|
|St. Andrews||Susan Jack, Parish of Lancaster||See Note|
|Woodstock||Kathy Asch, Parish of Woodstock||The Rev. Roderick Black, Parish of Richmond|
Note: No cleric was elected at the Greater Chapter meeting, so responsibility for filling the vacancy falls to Diocesan Council.
- Omnibus Constitutional and Canonical Amendments (Motion 2017-01), moved by Sandra Craft, seconded by Geoffrey Hall that the Constitution of the Diocesan Synod of Fredericton and Canons One, Five, Six and Seven be amended as presented.
- Canon Three Amendments (Implementing Recommendations of the Episcopal Elections Taskforce) (Motion 2017-02), moved by Sandra Craft, seconded by Geoffrey Hall that Canon Three be amended as presented.
Both laity and clergy passed the motion, with one nay vote recorded from the laity.
- Canon Two Amendments (Timing of election of delegates to the Provincial and General Synods) (Motion 2017-03), moved by Sandra Craft, seconded by Geoffrey Hall that s.12 of Canon Two be amended as presented.
The motion was passed with at least two nay votes from both laity and clergy.
- Motion 2017-07 Mediation Support in New Brunswick Family Courts, moved by Thomas Nisbett, seconded by Kathy Page that the Diocesan Synod urge the Government of New Brunswick to:
Introduce a system of Mediation Support for all cases proceeding through the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench – Family Division that cannot be resolved with a single hearing;
b) Give judges in the Court of Queen’s Bench – Family Division the option, through legislation, of requiring parties to participate in a Mediation Program prior to any Court hearing; and,
c) Establish a cadre of trained, volunteer professionals to provide Mediation Services to parties journeying through the Family Court system.
- Motion 2017-08 – Protection of Religious Freedom, moved by Shirley Noseworthy, seconded by Bob LeBlanc that the Diocesan Synod write the federal Minister of Justice, Chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal & Constitutional Affairs to express the Synod’s opposition to the proposed repeal of section 176 of the Criminal Code, which specially protects faith leaders and faith communities from violence and disturbance in worship.
- Notice of Motion
The Rev. Dan McMullen presented his intent to move a motion at the next diocesan synod. He proposes that the upper-age definition of a youth delegate be lowered from 35 to 25. See more on this in the story called “How do you define youth.”
The Rev. Richard Bowley, of the United Church, spoke for the ecumenical guests, calling the day’s experience a powerful one, beginning with the bishop’s charge.
“Thank you for making a space for us, for praying for folks so readily,” he said. He noted the many interesting stories of the speakers, and prayed for the diocese.
Response to the charge
Lionel Hayter, Parish of St. Andrews, gave the response to the bishop’s charge.
“The book chosen for today’s program is brilliant,” he said. “It goes hand-in-hand with the bishop’s charge.
“We must expand upon our strength of rituals to propel ourselves into the world. We as Anglicans, as Christians, have the opportunity to do something great. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus.”
Lionel prayed for action and encouragement in the mission to come.
The offering collected at Diocesan Synod amounted to $1,786.80 and will be used to support the construction of the library at Bishop McAllister College in Uganda.
The 136th Diocesan Synod was adjourned and the Rev. Paul Ranson officiated at Evening prayer to close the day.