Diocesan Synod is time for members to come together. Much like family gatherings, we meet to share our stories, to discuss what's best to do, and most of all to enjoy each other in all our diversity. We also worship together.

New Westminster's 107th Synod session on May 24th and 25th, 2007, was all of this. The opening Eucharist is special every year. The walls of the hangar-like college gymnasium seem to disappear in the mutual celebration and a strong sense of the meaning of the body of Christ. This year "the moment" occurred with the soaring descant of the Iona community hymn, "Come Holy Spirit." Bishop Gerhard Preibisch of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada concluded his address by saying that the Diocese of New Westminster is "way ahead" of the Lutherans on the blessing of same sex unions.

Electric moments and contentious issues were missing this year, but everyone agreed that the funniest moment of Synod 2007 took place when the Task Force on Physical Resources introduced their report, "Making Ministry Happen," with a video. Delegates laughed their way through the antics of an empire-building archdeacon, the Venerable Percival Hogmanay (played by actor Christopher Gaze of Bard on the Beach), as he manipulated charts, model churches, and tombstones.

The most astounding moment was the news that 24 parishes had met or exceeded their fundraising goals for Honouring Our Commitment, providing $1.16 million for the residential schools fund. "This is an extraordinary achievement," said Gordon Lee (campaign co-chair) to thunderous applause. When First Nation leaders, Sherry Small and Chief Robert Joseph, presented their heartfelt thanks to Synod, emotion ran high on both sides of the microphone.

The most historic moment involved the Chief Herald of Canada's formal presentation of the new diocesan badge to Bishop Michael. Standing next to a gigantic representation of the badge on the screen, Robert Watt (St. Catherine's, North Vancouver), resplendent in his chain of office, described the badge's elements and their significance.

The most enlightening moment occurred during the Synod sermon on day two. Delegates listened with rapt attention to Bishop Michael's address about the parable of the mustard seed and learned its true meaning. He told us, "[It] is short, brilliant and utterly radical." (Read the full address on the diocesan website.)

The busiest moment revolved around Plan 2018, the launch of the diocese's new strategic planning process (see page 1). This flowed directly from the acceptance of the Ministry Assessment Process, which Synod insisted be aligned with a "yet to be developed" diocesan strategic plan. Delegates participated in an exercise that demonstrated the depth of the present ministries supported by the diocese. Pen and paper in hand, they jostled for elbow room in front of the display tables around the hall and listened carefully to those describing each ministry. After reporting what they had learned to their colleagues, each parish elected a "Plan 2018 Champion" to represent them at the grass-roots strategic planning sessions in each deanery, the first step towards Plan 2018.

One of the most heartening moments came during the debate on motion 13. Surrounded by supporters, youth delegate Meghan Crosby (St. Anselm's) eloquently took the diocese to task for foot-dragging on the question of a youth coordinator. She pointed out that motion 10 (passed at Synod 2006) called for investigation into the feasibility of placing a youth minister in Synod office by early 2007, in consultation with the youth.

Through Crosby's pointed questions of diocesan leaders, Synod learned that, although diocesan council had addressed the issue and found there was insufficient money to hire a youth minister, they had failed to involve the youth in the process. She demanded more action and youth involvement as she supported a new motion requiring that money be found for a diocesan youth minister no later than 2009. This motion carried overwhelmingly.

The most moving moment came at the end of Synod 2007-drums began to beat, heads turned. Two young Nisga'a led the Rev. Matthew Johnson, honorary assistant priest at St. James's, up to the dais. As Bishop Michael commissioned Johnson for a two-year street ministry in the Downtown Eastside, delegates fell silent and were deeply touched.

At the end, everyone left Synod with the knowledge that the Diocese of New Westminster is alive and well, busy in the world, and planning to do more outside its walls.

Julie H. Ferguson is the author of Sing a New Song: Portraits of Canada's Crusading Bishops (Dundurn 2006) and attends St. John the Apostle in Port Moody.