“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Romans 12:4 – 5, NRSV).
I returned home from the Province V Synod late Saturday night and, as promised, I am
eager to share some of my experience with all of you. Next week, Lizzie Anderson and Felicity Thompson, your other deputies to Synod, will share their impressions of our time together in the blog. I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for sending us to Synod. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to listen and learn, to share our stories and to hear the stories of others, and to be stretched in new ways of thinking about concerns we all share in the Province of the Midwest.
Our gathering began with the President of our Provincial Executive Board, Genevieve (Gennie) Callard, sharing an intro to the provincial structure. I wrote some of the details in last week’s blog – we come from 14 dioceses in 6 states with a total of 220,000 Episcopalians. The goals of the provinces are threefold: to connect, to network, and to support the people in our areas. The hope is that we can bring fresh perspectives and begin to think more outside the box – or, as Gennie put it, learn “to fish from the other side of the boat,” making reference to Jesus’ direction to the disciples when they were not hauling in a big catch (John 21:1 – 6).
I might describe synod as a cross between a diocesan convention, Diocesan Council meeting, Ministry Fair and Vestry Days. We were blessed with a fine keynote address (more to come on this), presentations from various groups around the Province, guided table conversations, updates from the recipients of Provincial Grants, times of worship, and opportunities to catch up and network with people we don’t get to see often. Of course, we did a little business, too, nominating and voting for officers of the Provincial Board and those who will be running for a place on the Joint Committee for the Election of a New Presiding Bishop should we need this committee.
If I were to identify a theme for this year’s Synod, I would borrow words from Paul’s letter to the Romans – Collaboration: One Body with Many Members. Our keynote speaker, the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville Burrows, Bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis, asked us to define the word “collaboration.” Answers from the floor included “working together”, “not a competition”, “mutual regard”, and “1 + 1 = 3”. Bishop Jennifer encouraged us to envision our work as “entanglement” in which we are constantly intersecting and engaging with one another. We are stronger and more capable when we work together just as we read in Scripture yet we are prone to creating “silos” or places in which we work alone, whether alone means as individuals, congregations or dioceses. For a body to be healthy and productive, all the parts must be working together and not acting as “lone ranger Christians”. This is as true for the Church as it is for each province and each congregation. We need each other.
Collaboration may take more time and effort but the reward is far greater and can reach much further. We might need a change of focus. For example: what might it look like if we changed the name “deanery” to “mission area”? “Deanery” can seem more inward-looking while “mission area” looks beyond our own walls into the communities of people and resources around us. We need to answer the questions “Who is not at the table?” and “How do we bring them and keep them engaged?” I think these are valuable questions to answer whenever we are beginning or re-evaluating mission and outreach programs.
Many groups working within The Episcopal Church and our Province gave presentations. We heard from Bishops United against Gun Violence, the Church Pension Group, the Academy for Vocational Leadership (yes, our own Whitaker Director Vicki Hesse along with the Rev. Dr. Val Fargo from the Diocese of Eastern Michigan and the Rt Rev. Whayne Hougland from the Diocese of Western Michigan), Ms Nurya Parish from Plainsong Farm on the Care of Creation, the College of Congregational Development (CCD) and the Diocesan Congregational Development Initiative (DCDI), and Fierce Conversations led by Courtney Reid.
Before our final business meeting, Gennie Callard gave her “State of the Province Address.” We’re doing well and receiving good feedback from other provinces about some of our initiatives. Gennie reported that the Board is working to maximize what’s working in the province while trying to tweak the areas that aren’t living out our mission goals. The Board has chosen three new initiative for this triennium:
- creating ministry groups supported with video chat and networking opportunities
- providing intro to General Convention topics webinars
- the BPG (Big Provincial Gathering) to be held July 12 – 13, 2019 in Kalamazoo, MI.
After approving the minutes from the last Synod in 2015 and the treasurer’s report, we heard the election results:
President of the Executive Board – Ms. Genevieve Callard
Vice President of the Executive Board – The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth
Secretary of the Executive Board – Ms Alicia Hager
Treasurer of the Executive Board – Ms Courtney Reid
Representative to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church – The Rev. Matthew Cowden
Nominees from Province V for the Joint Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop
The clergy order
The Rev. M.E Eccles
The Rev. Susan Haynes
The Rev. Mary Slenski
The lay order
Ms Jane Cisluycis
Mr Chris Helleck
Ms Sandy McPhee
So, there you have it: Synod in the “Reader’s Digest Condensed” version (I bet I’m showing my age using that reference!). I’m looking forward to reading what Lizzie and Felicity have to tell us about their experience next week. Once again, thank you for giving us the opportunity to attend this gathering and represent the Diocese of Michigan. Please let us know if there are questions you might have about our experience. We’d love to tell you!
Let us pray –
Gracious and loving God, thank you for forming us into one body in Jesus. Give us vision to see one another as equal and important members recognizing that each part is vital for the health of us all. Help us to look for new opportunities to work together for the good of your Kingdom and follow the leading of your Spirit in all that we do. We ask all this in the name of your Beloved Son, Jesus our Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council