Friday morning, May 24 the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster gathered for our regular biennial at the Italian Cultural Centre. Staff and volunteers arrived bright and early, many before 7am to set up and get everything ready for the Synod delegates. Delegates, volunteers and staff were already buzzing with excitement over the full program for this year’s Synod – especially the plan to repeal and replace our Diocesan Constitution and Canons with an updated version.
As has been our custom in the past, we began with a Synod Eucharist, with Archbishop Melissa preaching and presiding. Her sermon, on the Synod theme “Love One Another: Christ’s Body the Church”, was used later on in the morning for a table group discussion that gave members of Synod a chance to get to know those from other parishes with whom they were seated. Much of the morning’s time was spent on the usual business that comprises the opening of Synod, including introductions to resolutions, nominations, memorials, greetings, new clergy arrived in the diocese, the adoption of the agenda, accepting the minutes from the two previous Synods and the receipt of the written reports that comprise the Synod circular. Many of these pieces of business are done by newer members of the clergy of the Diocese – thereby enabling the body of Synod to become more familiar with these new names and faces.
Friday morning also included several compelling reports. The first was given by Suzanne Rumsey, the Public Engagement Program Coordinator for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). In celebration of their 60th Anniversary, PWRDF has unveiled a new logo as well as a new 5 year plan, which incorporates their priorities and also the UN Sustainable Development Goals – a set of 17 priorities for global development which were created as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals. PWRDF’s 5 year plan included the following priorities:
We then heard from Charlotte French, of St Philip’s Dunbar, who is the head of the Local Arrangements Committee for General Synod. General Synod will be held in Vancouver this summer from July 10 to 16. Charlotte described the various ways in which we are preparing to serve as good hosts for this major Church event. Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks during General Synod. If you are available to volunteer, please visit the Diocesan website and fill out the volunteer application form, though the deadline is past, there are still roles that need to be filled so applications are welcome.
Noon prayers for the day concluded with a table prayer for our lunch of sandwiches provided by the Italian Cultural Centre. In this author’s opinion, the vegetarian sandwiches were better than previous years, but that could also be as a result of being hungrier this year. In any case, food and conversation were a welcome break after several hours of listening and hard work.
The children who were a part of the Synod childcare program also joined us in the main hall during lunch time, giving them a chance to reconnect with their parents and giving the hard-working childcare staff a break to eat lunch themselves. The childcare program at Synod, which was started four years ago at the 116th Diocesan Synod, had the highest level of participation it has had so far with 15 kids, aged 9 months to 10 years, participating over the two days. This program has been a wonderful addition to Synod, providing support for Synod delegates with children and also ensuring that these younger members of the Church become more familiar with this important Church event. Madeline, daughter of Missioner for Christian Formation, the Rev. Jessica Schaap, who has been participating in the childcare program since it first began, now looks forward eagerly to Synod and insists that she come with her Mom each year (evidently she is already excited for next Synod).
Levi Saunders, who worked as a childcare provider during the first year of the program, participated in his first Synod as a delegate this year as a youth delegate from Christ Church Cathedral. On the second day of Synod, he moved a resolution for the Diocese to recognize a climate emergency which was adopted with strong support from the members of Synod.
The afternoon of the first day saw the introduction of the major work which had been done on our Diocesan Constitution and Canons. The committee which had taken on this work spent some time explaining why a full revision of the Canons was necessary and what kinds of issues they sought to resolve as a part of their work. These issues included creating a clearer and consistent numbering system, ensuring consistency of language and terminology as well as clearer rules of order for Synods, among others. It was clear from their presentations, that all the members of the committee had developed a passion and even fondness for this document with which they had all spent a great deal of time. This was an important factor in engaging the larger group, many of whom are not familiar with the Constitution and Canons, in this important work. After these presentations were concluded, the committee invited questions and feedback about the new draft text which was circulated prior to Synod. Many people raised important questions of meaning and language as well as the committee’s rationale for particular decisions. These were all gathered up for the committee to review and answer the following day.
Several more program reports were given Friday. The Rev. Michael Shapcott, Executive Director of Sorrento Centre updated members on exciting new developments at the centre. Solar panels have been installed on the roof of Spes Bona, the brick building on site which houses the administrative offices as well as some of the staff accommodations. This is part of Sorrento Centre’s ongoing effort to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their sustainability. More solar panels will be installed in subsequent stages of this initiative. Another new development is that the Director’s House, which has served as a home for many of the Centre’s previous Executive Directors as well as Michael Shapcott, is being converted into housing for some of the summer youth staff at Sorrento. Michael is moving into a renovated log cabin located at the Sorrento farm site.
The final program report of the day was given by the Rev. Peter Smyth, the Senior Port Chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers in Vancouver. This was the first time Synod had heard from Peter about this ministry since he began as Senior Port Chaplain. The Mission to Seafarers has two centres in the Lower Mainland – one at Deltaport and the other for Vanterm, the two local ports. They provide services to seafarers in these centres as well as making visits to ships in port and using their van to provide transportation to seafarers while they are ashore. Peter shared a video with Synod which was prepared for the International Day of the Seafarer in 2018 and described the experiences of one seafarer working on a ship for the first time. Those who would like are invited to volunteer with the Mission to Seafarers or to donate to this ministry – you can find more information on their website.
The audited financial statements for 2018 were presented by Diocesan Treasurer Bob Hardy of St John the Evangelist, North Vancouver. Synod members were then invited to ask any questions they had about the financial statements. Several questions were raised concerning the various funds and assets of the diocese and how they are represented in the financial statements. These questions and clarifications were an important part of the work leading up to passing the 2020 and 2021 vision budgets the next day.
After a brief report from the Nominations Committee on which positions would require election the following morning, Synod moved into the business of resolutions. In the forty-five minutes allotted for resolutions on Friday, we had the opportunity to discuss and vote on two resolutions. The first was moved by Diocesan Council and was a follow up to the work of the 117th Synod when the Diocesan Assessment Formula, which determines the amount of money that parishes contribute to the diocesan budget, was revised in order to keep more funds at the parish level. The resolution proposed excluded from parishes’ Operating Receipts (which is an amount used to calculate the parish’s assessment amount), any grants or allocations received from the diocese. During the discussion time, the Rev. David Edgerton asked whether this resolution would also exclude from Parish Operating Receipts any grant money received from other organizations besides the diocese. Bob Hardy responded that it was not excluded which prompted an amendment to the resolution in order to also exclude these monies from Parish Operating Receipts. The amendment passed as did the resolution itself.
The second resolution was moved by the Ven. Al Carson, Archdeacon of the Fraser Valley Archdeaconry and seconded by the Rev. Vivian Seegers, director of the Urban Aboriginal Ministry (UAM) and the first indigenous woman ordained in the Diocese of New Westminster. This resolution was one concerning paying restitution to Indigenous people as a gesture of reconciliation. The resolution proposes that of the money received on the sale of any land or property, retroactive to January 1, 2018 and going forward, 5% would be returned to the indigenous leaders on whose traditional territory the property is located, 2.5% would be allocated to endow Indigenous Justice Ministries in the Diocese, and 2.5% would be allocated to fund the self-determining Indigenous Church at the national level. The retroactivity of this resolution was connected to several substantial property and land sales which took place in the past year and half would be included in this initiative. Many people spoke with great concern and conviction about the importance of living into our stated commitment to reconciliation and to acknowledge territory in this concrete, financial way. In particular, Jerry Adams, Indigenous Justice Coordinator, spoke about how much more work there is to do towards justice for Indigenous people and how resources, especially financial resources as greatly needed for this work. This resolution passed with the strong support of the body of Synod with a friendly amendment to include by name, Inuit and Metis people as well. It will be up to Diocesan Council to figure out how this resolution will be enacted, but the Archbishop assured Synod that she and Diocesan Council will take this as a strong sign from Synod that they believe this is important work which needs to get done.
After such a busy day, both the opportunity for prayer and the opportunity for social time provided by the Evening Prayer service and the Evening Reception respectively were welcome. Delicious appetizers were provided by the Italian Cultural Centre as members of Synod connected with friends and colleagues from around the Diocese before going home to get some sleep before another busy day of important work began the next morning, bright and early at 8am.