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The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada had not met in Vancouver since 1965. The 42nd General Synod with the theme “I Have Called You By Name” got underway with Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 7:30pm.

The celebrant was the soon-to-retire Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Reverend Fred Hiltz; the preacher was the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, the Right Reverend Mark MacDonald; the Very Reverend Peter Elliott Dean of the Diocese and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral welcomed the congregation of delegates and others and Bishop Larry Robertson of Diocese of Yukon officially welcomed all the members to the Ecclesiastical Province.

The first two paragraphs of Dean Peter Elliott’s notes found on the inside cover of the Order of Service bulletin are as follows:

The last time the General Synod met in Vancouver was 1965. On the agenda of that Synod were deliberations about proposed Principles of Union with the United Church of Canada, proposed changes to the organization of the work of General Synod, a report on the ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada to the “Canadian Indians,” and revisions to the Marriage Canon. And amongst the official “Acts of General Synod, 1965” is one that reads “Received letter of thanks from wives of delegates of Synod for hospitality received” – in 1965, most if not all delegates would have been men!

While many things have changed in the church and in the world in the last 54 years, what has not changed is the challenge to discern how to follow Christ in our time. Now, as then, the church rejoices in the good news of Jesus Christ that is celebrated in congregations, parishes and dioceses across this country. This is the joy of making Eucharist together, where differences of race, culture, and theology are transcended as bread is broken, wine is poured and we know ourselves to be, by grace, the People of God, the living Body of Christ, given the world’s healing.

Just prior to the 7:30 start time, Dean Peter Elliott walked up to the ambo microphone and welcomed the congregation. He shared the news of Archbishop Skelton’s absence due to ongoing medical tests and relayed her greetings and love to all those gathered.  Dean Elliott is chair of the Worship Committee for GS2019. He will retire from his current ministry position in just over two months. This is the first time since 1998 that Dean Elliott has not represented the Diocese of New Westminster as a General Synod delegate.

Following the procession in to the ringing of the bells in the Cathedral’s tower, the sanctuary party took their places in the chancel and Archbishop Hiltz standing at the altar said, “In this time and place, we gather on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.” To which the congregation replied, “From many places and people we come to this house of prayer.”

Kwhlii Gibaygum Nisga'a Dancers provided an inspirational beginning to the liturgy with two songs of unity and peace. Wal-aks, leader and knowledge keeper of Kwhlii Gibaygum Nisga'a Dancers echoed the territorial acknowledgement and also shared information about the songs and dances that would be part of the opening of the liturgy.

The preacher for the Eucharist was National Anglican Indigenous Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald. In a profound, plainly spoken and often chuckle-provoking homily Bishop Mark covered a lot of territory.

He began by saying that this would be the first time he had preached at General Synod and he would like to make a good impression as this Synod would be making some decisions that will profoundly affect his ministry. Early on he made a number of references to his principal message which could be best described as RENEWAL, and he made no bones about that, asking the question “how do we put the corpse back to life?”

To summarize, he wanted to leave the congregation with four things:

  1. We must become once again a community of disciples, be disciplined. We have developed into an institution. "We may have acted as a good institution. We did not act as a community of disciples, and we are called to something greater." You will know that we have it right as a community of disciples because of the extraordinary amount of love we show each other and ultimately others.
  2. We must become a community of openness to all people in a way that we haven't been before. For love will show itself through that openness. 
  3. We need to renew ourselves in our love of creation. “It is absolutely imperartive that we renew that relationship!"
  4. We need to recover that our true power, our true glory is the presence of Jesus in our midst. The true presence of God. "If God doesn't show up, we are toast."  

The Intercessor who led the Prayers was the Venerable Dr. Dawna Wall. A particularly poignant section of the intercession began with the words:

“Enliven our memories to recall the varied gifts of members of this Synod who have gone before us, that your work begun in them may continue in us…"

...and then Archdeacon Wall read the names of the 25 lay members, Members of the House of Clergy and Bishops who have died since the 2016 Synod.

Music in worship had been chosen to facilitate congregational participation and was led by members of Cathedral Choir under the direction and accompaniment of Rupert Lang, the Cathedral’s organist and music director who has been in this ministry for 33 years.

Following the Eucharist and prior to the Dismissal, Archbishop Hiltz offered words of welcome to the Synod members and words of sincere gratitude to Dean Elliott and the cathedral’s lay and clergy members for the opportunity to worship in this “gorgeous” space. He reminded Synod that there will be two more events at the Cathedral; the Primatial Election on July 13 and the Closing Eucharist the afternoon of July 16. With a smile he gave extra emphasis to the Closing Eucharist as this will be his last official liturgy as Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. He whimsically alluded to Tuesday, July 16 as “this is the day the Lord has made.”

Archbishop Hiltz then introduced the Executive Director of the Anglican Foundation, the Reverend Canon Judy Rois who shared some information about events sponsored by the Anglican Foundation and their sponsoring partners taking place over the next six days.

The official welcome from the host Province was given by Bishop Larry Robertson acting on behalf of the Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of BC and Yukon (according to Bishop Roberts some people refer to the Province as Yukon and BC), Archbishop Melissa Skelton who was unable to be present as she is in hospital undergoing testing to discover the cause of some intermittent recurring conditions that emerged following some travel outside the country. As of July 11, Archbishop Skelton is feeling much better but the tests are still in process.

The announcements completed, the Reverend Juanita Clark, Deacon at St. John the Evangelist, North Vancouver approached the ambo mic and dismissed the congregation with the words, “God has called you by name. Become who you are.”   

IMAGES

  • A full view of the chancel at Christ Church Cathedral during the singing of the Affirmation of Faith, "I Believe in God Almighty" CP 44.
  • Members of Kwhlii Gibaygum Nisga'a Dancers conclude the first of two songs with feathers.
  • Archbishop Hiltz processes in following Primate's Chaplain the Venerable Paul Feheley
  • Kwhlii Gibaygum Nisga'a Dancers
  • Gospel Acclamation prior to proclaiming John 15: 12-17
  • The preacher for the Eucharist. The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald.
  • Cathedral Choir at prayer during the prayers for the 25 Members of General Synod who have died since 2016.
  • Intercessor, the Venerable Dr. Dawna Wall leads the Prayers.
  • On behalf of Archbishop Melissa Skelton, the Rt. Reverend Larry Roberts, Diocese of Yukon welcomes the Members of #GS2019

Many more photos with captions in a photo album at Anglican Conversation, the Facebook page of the Diocese of New Westminster