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image credit: Matthew Puddister

I arrived at the council of General Synod a little weary, just minutes before the procedings started. 

After a full few days of important discussions as a part of the Diocese of BC & Yukon’s Provincial Summit, heading into these meetings with little sleep felt challenging but good. Having been elected as a representative of our Province, I was curious about what the Council would feel like, and how we would conduct our business. 

On Thursday morning we began with a smudging. Archbishop Chris Harper shared stories of this practice, and, as he walked around the circle with Eagle Feather and White Sage, as we drew the smoke over ourselves–our mind, our eyes, our mouth, our heart, our bodies–Archbishop Chris offered a blessing. 

Our time of spiritual nourishment and commitment continued with Holy Eucharist in the chapel, where we sang together, prayed together, reflected on scripture together, and were invited to Christ’s table where all are welcomed, where all shared in the body and blood of Christ. We were reminded of who we are and whose we are when we said together, “we are all one body, for we all share in the one bread.” 

The theme for this two-year Council of General Synod is Rooted in the Word, Flourishing in the Spirit.

During our opening worship, we listened for God’s word in scripture. We listened to John’s apocalypse, where he imagines the consummation of all things as a river running through city streets, a tree on both sides of the river, and a food forest that feeds all people, each tree blooming and blossoming, each tree bearing fruit so that all may eat for twelve months of the year. The leaves of the trees, it reads in Revelation, are for the healing of the nations. 

Thinking about the wars and rumours of wars all over the news, I found myself thinking, how much we need that healing today. We need such healing in our own hearts and lives, in our own relationships, in our own communities, in our own churches, and throughout the world. I found myself praying with this passage that such a vision of provision might come to be, and that as God’s people, we might see our way of living into this overwhelming vision of a world where all have enough, and experience the love of God who calls each of us beloved, enough. 

In contrast to this reading from Revelation, our lesson from the Hebrew scriptures came from Ezekiel 34. In this passage, God, through the prophet, rages against the Shepherds–the leaders of the community–who have not done the job of strengthening the weak, healing the sick, binding up the injured, bringing in the strayed, seeking the lost, but have ruled with force and harshness. This is, of course, an important prophetic passage. It's challenging too. 

It is a reminder to those of us who hold positions of leadership in the church, for those of us who are members of the church, what our call is–to embody the love of God for all people, seeking not primarily our own comfort, but the good of the whole. The good of the flock. The good of the body. 

I don’t yet know who picked the passages for worship, yet for the number of questions I have about the choice of the prophetic words from Ezekiel, I am grateful for them. I am grateful for these words that keep before us the work that we are to do in this Council–the work of serving and supporting the life and the work of the church, especially as it plays out in communities and communities of communities across this land. 

At the end of the first day, a day focused on building relationships with the group that will serve on Council until the next General Synod, I am left with a few questions that I hope to explore in the days ahead. 

  • In what ways does General Synod (through staff and programs) serve and equip the body of Christ in its local incarnation? 
  • In what ways does the budget of the national church reflect the Transformational Commitments adopted at Calgary’s meeting of General Synod? 
  • What are the ways in which the church in its national expression can live more deeply into these Commitments and the Five Marks of Mission? 

It must be ten years ago now, I worked on staff for the national church as a member of the Youth Initiatives Team. From that vantage point, I saw some of what the national church does, and how it could connect with, build networks, and equip people for ministry at the local level. We built training programs for youth ministers, we convened people in ministry through networks of mutual support. We sought to serve young people through national youth gatherings. 

With a decade’s distance, I feel like I’m looking at the work of General Synod with new eyes, asking different questions. 

The question I am asking more than anything now is this: how are the various church structures supporting the front-line ministry of members, leaders, congregations, dioceses, and provinces, to deepen their faithful response to God? Where are we succeeding? Where are we falling short? 

Amongst other things tomorrow, we'll be talking about the budget. A budget is a costing of a plan, and so I'm curious to hear how people are discussing the plan, who it serves, and why these things are seen as important. 

I'm hopeful that through prayerful discernment (and through asking good questions) I'll come to understand more about the breadth of this church across the country, as well as the ways in which we are working together to equip the people of God for ministry. I think these are important questions to ask. Because at the end of the day, I want to know how our collective work across this country, is equipping the people of God, in Christian community, to serve God and the world God loves. 

Please pray for all who gather this week at CoGS. Please pray especially your the representatives of the Province of BC and Yukon–Charlotte Hardy, Sarah Lehman, the Rev. Walter Kagura, Bishop David Lehmann (and me!)–as we seek with others to listen deeply, and to faithfully discern how God is calling our church to respond to the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit across this land.