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First let me say what a joy it is to be here! What a joy it is to have all of you here together, you who have valiantly offered yourselves for the hard work that is ahead of us, and, I hope, the joyous work that is ahead of us in this Synod. 

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the One who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, …. encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

This is the text from which we got our theme for Synod: 

GATHER together 

ENCOURAGE one another 

PROVOKE to love and good deeds 

This passage from Hebrews, which I’m sure you will have memorized by the end of Synod, a good thing as we are shaped by scripture we “learn by heart”, this text stood out for the planning team as we looked at our purpose for this Synod, of gathering together to strengthen each other in our mission in each community around the Diocese. 

The previous 6 chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews the author carefully, painstakingly, outlines the amazing news of Jesus drawing us into a new life of holiness, of right relationship with God, that we can approach God with confidence and assurance of being loved. Because we know this immense and amazing love of God for us, and for the world, we live with boldness. We can boldly go “where many fear to tread”, or “ where none have gone before”. After outlining this God as the true source of our hope, the author then in this passage urges a response to this good news: “to hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering.” Our hope rests in God, it rests in the character of God: God’s faithfulness. (not ours, God’s!) and the confession of our hope as this writer describes it, is: to gather, to encourage one another, and to provoke each other to love and good deeds. Our theme then is a way to Proclaim our Hope: gather, provoke to love, encourage one another. 

A couple of things to note about this: first, remember these things are a response to the Grace of God: not to earn God’s love - that is already there. (this is the Good News that humans too often turn upside down, making our actions into a way to earn God’s love and approval….) so, assured of God’s faithfulness, we can put away with anxious striving!

All our work is joyous response to the faithfulness of God. 

Notice it says “our hope”. Hope is a communal thing; in our encouragement of each other, we remind each other of the real source of our hope. 

We are called: 

To gather - in worship each week in your local setting, however it is you gather. As a Diocese: We gather. We’ve been gathering on line in many ways. We gather once every three years as a diocese (except during pandemics) to enjoy that encouragement that comes from a wider perspective; we are not alone. 

To Encourage: to give heart to, the English translation means, to strengthen. (Gk: to call someone to your side, to invite them, to call out for help, entreating, exhorting, make an appeal, comfort, cheer up) This weekend of exploring our work together, the mission we can accomplish together as a Diocese that we could not do on our own, synod is a way of strengthening each other. Maybe cheering each other up, maybe comforting each other. 

And then this last call: To provoke each other to love and good deeds….Provoke - such a startling verb here. The hope of the planning team is that we would startle each other, as we hear each other’s stories of what God is doing in our midst and what we are doing to respond in love to the needs in our communities, we hope we will indeed be strengthened, our imaginations will be awakened for new possibilities in our own ministry settings. . 

Communal (Our hope) 

I have been reading a book by Steven Charleston, a member of the Choctaw Nation, an environmentalist, theologian and Episcopal Bishop, We survived the end of the World: Lessons from Native America on Apocalypse and Hope. Fascinating examination of history of how Indigenous peoples, faced with annihilation of culture, and language, and religion, and land and livelihood, faced with their world ending, found ways to regroup, to carry their story and tradition in new containers: story, song, dance - in new containers that could withstand the apocalypse. Because it is an American book, some of the stories are new to me. He tells the story of Tenskwatawa in the early 1800s, building a “city on a hill”, a model village of Peace. When it was destroyed by government forces, he moved it, and again, and again…. Model communities of vision that could be moved when Indigenous were pushed off their land. They carried with them the ideal of the Peaceful village because a community can go anywhere. It was a Transportable vision, implanted in the people themselves, so it could survive displacement, oppression and threat. Seeing beyond their former sense of being isolated tribes to being a people, one people, in unity.

He says the challenge amidst the fear of apocalypse is that people are tempted to build bunkers. Our society values self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-focus. Charleston says the “death of community” is actually one of our greatest fears of an apocalypse. We know at our heart that we need community to survive. 

There is much in this book that demands a whole book study, that speaks about what we can learn from Indigenous resilience about reshaping the church, restructuring so we can carry the gospel of love into an uncertain future, the need to travel lightly. As some have expressed it, to move from being an “institution” back to being a “movement”, followers of Jesus, unencumbered by structures that used to work but no longer serve us. We will hear more at this Synod of the Thriving Communities Tools to help us in that discernment. 

There is a challenge here to be communities of Hope! 

There are many stories of how leaders amongst the Indigenous people, as they were faced with annihilation taught ritual, song, and dance as ways to carry the future forward. Ritual, song, and dance. We do as a church have many things that are part of being communities of hope in apocalypse. 

Charleston speaks of our need to build relationship with Earth, a relationship of love, that love is the only thing strong enough to sustain the resilience of continuing to work in the face of the threat to Earth. I think an example of this is the Okanagan Anglican Camp. As we absorb the news this week that our hope that OAC could have a summer camp this year has proved impossible, we will nonetheless continue tomorrow with our visit to the camp, to sing and to pray and hear the plans for rebuilding, to begin the “Say Yes to Kids” fundraising campaign from the Anglican Foundation. Lengthen the vision. 

I have been amazed by the resilience of Ian Dixon, the camp director. (I’m not surprised by this because I watched him adapt quickly again and again during Covid, keeping camp going when most camps had to shut down) As I read Stephen Charleston’s book about hope in an apocalyptic world, I realize Ian is an example of “love” being the motivator to “hang in there”. Ian’s love for kids! His deep joy in 

providing a fantastic camping experience for kids, an experience for children of being in a loving, accepting and respectful community, for fun and new skills, of seeing kids grow because of camp. It is Ian’s love that has compelled him forward even in the midst of grief, trauma, and unexpected roadblocks. Charleston says love is at the heart of the resilience and hope that will hang in there, keep going and find a way forward where the path isn’t yet clear. 

A second thing about the shared diocesan mission to young people through OAC, is building a love of nature in the next generations. Awe and wonder and reverence for creation, experience of nature that forms relationship with Earth. It is why I love doing “faith” time at camp, e.g. building nests, kids come

away awestruck by the intricacy of the nests, the skill o what a bird can weave together merely using only its beak. 

Charleston says that is the way we as a society will shift climate change: Love for Creation. Only love for creation is strong enough to transform our greed for stuff, our greed that is ruining the planet. May this Synod provoke our love for Earth. May the long term vision of a mission to children and young adults (and elders, because that is part of the dream going forward) through Okanagan Anglican Camp be one way we serve our Earth. 

(Seeing OAC will be devastating for those who have been before but not seen it since the fire. I was looking through my keys this afternoon and came across my key to Bishop’s Lodge, and I started to cry) 

OAC is right now an example of Viriditas. It is a sign to the world that even as we face the horrors and cost of climate change, we will cooperate with earth’s renewal. Viriditas. Hildegard of Bingen’s word for the Greening Power of God at the heart of creation. I always think of Hildegard in these first weeks of spring when every tree changes daily from faint hint of light green to deepening shades that seem to pop - each tree a different hue, freshness and vitality that is miraculous. It is the power of God, the vibrant life of Creator. It is our mission and our baptismal vow to safeguard that greening. 

We will also hear another story of Viriditas, with the Rev. Canon Anne Privett (Regional Dean) and members of St. Andrew’s of the ministry of the Gift Garden in the Central Okanagan Region that began at St. Andrew’s Mission, the process of discernment of cooperating with God’s mission through listening, to the needs of community, being awake to gifts! We will hear of building community partnerships around a shared passion for feeding the hungry. 

Saturday evening we will hear of responses to homelessness in various settings around the Diocese, of growing in our compassion for those who suffer most in our housing crisis. There is a variety of small and large stories, and we hope those will be a way of encouragement. 

Part of our Provisional Mission statement we adopted last year was to have “Thriving parishes”. I want to give you some history of our Diocesan work to put perspective on our work of this weekend: reminder where we have been putting our energy in the past couple of years 

In 2018 Synod, the “Parish Futures” initiative was introduced, recognizing profound changes were afoot, but with retirement of Bishop John Privett and an interim time, along with far more rapid parish changes than was anticipated, plus several clergy retirements, that program was on hold for a while. In 2021, Synod picked that work up with the formation of the Structures Working Group (SWG) Synod 2021 also put in place annual special synods (via zoom) that have enabled us not to lose

momentum as we adapt to change more quickly. After careful listening and consultation with every parish, in Synod 2022 SWG led us through lively discussions about the changes that were happening. In December they presented the report “A PATH FORWARD”, an honest report of structures not serving our mission. Some found that report alarming and some found it freeing. Not that the Church (Body of Christ) is dying but that the way we organize ourselves needs to die in some forms, to change radically to fit the current reality. 

From that report, in Synod 2023 last May, we approved the Implementation plan, part of which was to hire for at least two years a co-ordinator to implement the plan. We approved funding for the first year, and hired for this position in October 2023, renaming the position from Implementation Coordinator to a more descriptive Director of Missional Renewal. We will hear and discuss this work in the 

Diocese in two presentations and workshops, Friday and Saturday mornings. 

I want us to notice that being able to have an annual gathering in between our in-person Synods every three years, has helped us to speed up our response, to gather more frequently to hear each other and make decisions. On Saturday, we will discuss a resolution regarding the structure, rhythm and purpose of these annual sessions of Synod. 

We thought at Synod last year that we would begin to look at some of the Canonical Changes needed, but we were not ready yet to formulate what those changes might be. Some suggested structural changes require looking at canons which may have served well in the past but no longer work. That will be some of our work on Saturday. 

One example of this is the Geographical Regions of the Diocese; in some circumstances like West Kootenay continue to explore an “area parish” model with Valhalla and Kootenay Summits. South Okanagan region has only one paid clergy at this time, other parishes are stepping up to the challenge - lay leadership of worship and community life, exploring partnerships, working on the Tools that have arisen out of the Structures Working Group report last year. Andrew will walk us through more discernment on that. Discussion and consideration of a resolution to form a non-geographical “region” of all the six Ecumenical Shared Ministries, to support each other in their common situations, may give us new imagination about how to structure “Regions” 

Supporting and Building “Thriving “ parishes means the Diocese resourcing parishes in transition. How does the Diocese equip leaders in parishes without clergy. This has meant Warden’s workshops, the treasurer’s workshop coming up in June, with Christopher Parsons, the Executive Archdeacon, Sheila the Diocesan Treasurer, Teresa the Diocesan Finance person.

With Pam Harris, Licensed Lay Ministrycoordinator, and the whole ministry Committee, we continue to figure out how to equip lay leaders to lead worship. 

We have one congregation that is having such excitement about lay-lead worship in their parish they have stepped back from their original goal of wanting to hire a priest in the old model. This need not frighten the clergy. The work of theologically trained, ordained ministry will not disappear but yes, it will change. This is a discussion in the House of Bishops. Circuit rider bishops and priests, multiple teams, area parishes…. 

I have appointed the Rev. Douglas Lewis as Coordinator of Kootenay Ministry Formation as we seek to strengthen the education of lay people for congregational leadership. I do not call lay leaders volunteers; they are disciples, equally called to ministry. It is work as the diocese, together, (the diocese is us!) our shared work, to equip them for this ministry, to build capacity to weather the changes. Douglas is working as liaison with WECAN (Western Educational Collaborative Anglican Network) and several other theological schools and dioceses who do lay training. So much is available now on-line, with an enhanced pool of teachers and a bigger learning community. I asked Kirsty Arndt, a theologically trained lay woman on the Diocesan Spiritual Development Committee, to attend on our behalf and WECAN, a national conference, called “We are Leaven” on strengthening the Spiritual Formation for lay people. Watch this space for her workshops! 

The Book study of When Church Stops working held in January had 80 participants between the two different groups. Watching the excitement of the conversations between different leaders from across the Diocese, I was full of joy! The Encouragement of community, the sharing of ideas, the recognition that the decline in numbers and struggle with aging leaders is in many parishes. “Not just us” as one person said. “Not that we’re doing something wrong” said another to nodding heads. And perhaps my favourite, as we discussed the book's encouragement to simply enjoy the worship and community the way it actually is and celebrate what is already there, the glorious good news when one deeply committed and energetic lay leader said, “Ahh, I think then I’ll just relax”! Back to our theme of trusting in the faithfulness of God. 

We will hear in this Synod about Education for Ministry, EFM, long an in-depth Biblical Training, continues to be part of our capacity building of lay leaders. We will hear tomorrow from Annette Cowan, the Director of EFM Canada. It is still an important pillar in our education for discipleship. 

I led a one session training for doing Lectio Divina Bible Study in a congregation, either as the Reflection on the Word during Worship or as a parish bible study. I confess that at the end of the evening as people had experienced the simplicity of the model and as we reflected on how it would work in their setting, as they joyfully waved goodbye on zoom, to new people they had just met from

across the diocese, after we said the doxology and I left the zoom room, I turned to Gerald with tears in my eyes. There, I said, if the structures of the church disappear, every one in all of those parishes can and will continue worship and Bible study. Gathering, encouraging, provoking each other to love! Being joyful communities of hope and therefore resilience and service as we respond to the world. This has always been our calling, but right now it is more “in our face”. How to be communities of hope! When our world is shifting so radically and is filled with fear, how can we be communities of hope? 

We will at this Synod hear about the partnerships and structural change we are building at the Provincial level of the church,again sharing resources and partnerships, ministries like Refugee Sponsorship we cannot do by ourselves even as a Diocese, let alone as parishes. 

“The universe is unfolding; the center still is holding. “ (from Carrie Newcomer song “Where you been” ) 

The Center of our Hope is the self-giving love of God, the Christ of compassion and mercy, “The grace and love at the heart of the universe.” May we hold fast to that Hope. As we gather at this synod in the confidence of that Hope, may we indeed “Encourage each other” and “Provoke each other to love and good deeds.” 

Thanks be to God