Ah, the last few weeks of the semester is always a scramble of grading and student meetings, and other related chaos! Add to the mix a trip to Chicago for our Province V Synod and life has been pretty full this last week, yet the time in Chicago was well worth the interruption and, hopefully, I can finish playing catch-up by the end of the week! In the midst of all the craziness on my desk, it is good to sit here for a little while and reflect on what I experienced at Synod.
I know that I’ve mentioned before that, as the newest member of our deputation to Convention, I’m facing a bit of a learning curve. I honestly didn’t know what Synod would be like and what work we might try to accomplish together. And, while I love the networking that I can do at our diocesan functions, I realized I wouldn’t know anyone there other than our representatives, Bishop Gibbs, Canon Jo Ann Hardy (a member of the Province board), Lizzie Anderson and the Rev. Ron Byrd. I needn’t have worried about my latent shyness at all! Everyone was friendly and welcoming and I’ve made some wonderful new friends through table discussions and shared meals!
Last Friday morning, we began with a brief overview of provincial structure and history within The Episcopal Church, specifically exploring our region, the Province of the Midwest – who we are and what we’re about. It was clearly stated that the goal of Province V is not how the dioceses can support the Province but how the Province can support the dioceses. To make this work, we looked at the ways the Province enables us to do more together than we might be able to accomplish separately. Some of this work includes Deacon training, anti-racism education, youth and campus ministry, congregational development and outreach. As one example, our Provincial budget has provided seed money grants for work with diocesan youth ministries, college chaplaincies and international work in the Diocese of El Salvador. Recipients of this year’s grants shared brief presentations about their ministry and the work they’re doing for God’s mission. We heard from campus ministries, Los Amigos Episcopales, youth ministries and the Diocesan Congregational Development Initiative. Friday evening, we learned about seminary-supported models for non-residential clergy formation from the Rev. Dr. Roger Ferlo, President of Bexley-Seabury Seminary, and the new Dean and President of Nashotah House, the Rev. Steven Peay. You can explore Province V’s webpage here – http://www.provincev.org/
All of that was quite interesting but, for me, the “meat” of Friday’s work centered on exposing issues of oppression within our own backgrounds and our communities. VISIONS, Inc., a non-profit training and consulting organization specializing in diversity and inclusion, led us through many table discussions to help us see that we are all impacted by misunderstanding and ignorance. As we identified many kinds of oppression (racism, sexism, classism, ableism, etc), we learned that we all fall into target and non-target categories. We had the chance to consider when we may have been treated as “less than” and when, by our actions or silence, we have treated others in that way. You can read more about VISIONS here – http://visions-inc.org/
After a good night’s sleep I was ready for Saturday morning. Our first speaker was Sam McDonald, Director of Mission for The Episcopal Church, who reminded us that “we are all missionaries or we are nothing” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu) and that mission is the heartbeat of the Church. During his presentation, he walked us through the interactive Report to the Church which was prepared in preparation for this summer’s General Convention. Find the report here and take some time to watch the videos which are interspersed throughout its pages – http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/report-church-2015
Our time at Synod was capped by our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori’s warm and gracious presence. In her words to us, she called us to remember that “we were created for abundant life.” God has equipped the saints with all we need to transform the Church into the “full stature of Christ.” She explained the “maturing church is self-extending, self-governing and self-sustaining” and that by living into the Five Marks of Mission we can see these goals accomplished (from my notes of Bishop Katharine’s talk):
Mark 1 – To proclaim the good news of the kingdom – We meet this mark when we equip our members and provide formation opportunities which foster interconnectedness and work for the good of the whole.
Mark 2 – To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers – We accomplish this as we “develop a broader vision for how the faithful are gathered.” Are we looking outside our comfortable routines to imagine new ways of doing what we do? Are we learning from those coming into our congregations – the refugees, the migrants, the marginalized? It might be time to look at revising the BCP; not throwing out the best of what we have but adding to enrich our work.
Mark 3 – To respond to human need by loving service – We live into this mark when we hear the “people crying in the wilderness.” The Millennium Development Goals have guided our work since 2000 but they will expire this year and a new, ambitious agenda will replace them, which includes ending poverty, promoting prosperity and well-being for all, protecting the environment and addressing climate change (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/ ).
Mark 4 – To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation – We will see progress in reaching this mark when we eliminate inequality of access to resources. We most motivate peace-making, ensure adequate food for all children, and seek peaceful resolutions to conflict.
Mark 5 – To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth – God gave us this home. When we contaminate through lack of caring, we bring illness and disease to all parts of our planet. When we care, we see the signs of the abundant life God desires for us. Restraining our appetites gives life to others.
Yes, there were resolutions and elections, too. Our own Edie Wakevainen was elected as Secretary to Province V! Congratulations, Edie!!
It was a very engaging and helpful two days and I am most grateful for the opportunity to attend. I’d be pleased to answer any questions you might have – and I bet my other EDOMI participants would be, as well. I feel a little better prepared for some of the work we’ll do at General Convention and am beginning to count the days – 57 days until I leave!!
Let us pray –
Father, you have called us to a pilgrimage of faith.
The light of your truth summons us,
and the call of faith is a constant challenge on our journey.
We give thanks for the desire to seek you;
we give thanks for voices from the past that offer guidance,
for signposts pointing to the nexst stage,
for companions who share the journey,
for footsteps in the sand of pilgrims before us,
for the conviction that, unseen but not unknown, you are with us.
Father, keep us faithful to the vision
and steadfast on our pilgrimage
so that the distant goal may become a reality
and faith at last lead to sight.
Our Closing Prayer at Synod from Celtic Blessings and Prayers by Brendan O’Malley.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council