The sun was shining and the skies were calm over Belmont Archdeaconry as about 280 representatives gathered for this year’s Synod. The representatives came from all generations and all parts of our movement to Lower Hutt’s Chilton St James School, where the weather was a perfect match for the palpable atmosphere of whanaungatanga inside the room. Friends regathered and reconnected, and the presence of God was felt as the group worshipped together.
This was the more business-oriented festival gathering of the diocese, yet there was an unmistakable sense that all present were leaning in, prepared to give and receive, and willing to celebrate everything that makes us who we are as a family. Bishop Justin highlighted the successes of the last few years in the first part of his Bishop’s Charge on Saturday, exclaiming that we’re not just talking about good ideas – we’re talking about the achievements of the here and now.
Bishop Eleanor reminded us in her Bishop’s Charge, a part of the Synod Eucharist, that we are family – not because we love each other well, but because that’s what Scripture says we are. She highlighted that it’s not something we can choose – but we are made to be family. This whakaaro (concept) was made visible in the discussions throughout Synod. Difficult discussions were had with respect and cordiality, and there were a few laughs along the way – not least of all from the Bishop’s attempts at impersonation!
Also contributing to the sense of family was the range of people in the room. When Bishop Justin asked who were the Synod first-timers, a swathe of hands went up across the room. When he asked who were the under-35s, a similar show of hands en masse occurred. We were blessed by the presence and wisdom of members who continue to serve this diocese after many years of doing so, and only occasionally was the business of the day punctuated by the cry of a waking infant, generally due to the eruption of applause as members celebrated another aspect of our diversity – the 40th anniversary of the ordination of woman priests. We had potentially the youngest messenger of any Synod – the young Joe Sanderson – bringing his mother a cup of tea at the Presidents’ table!
For what was essentially a governance meeting, the motions and discussions were surrounded by prayer. Bishop Justin encouraged us to take time at our tables throughout to pray for each other in respect of the relevant topics being discussed, and to constantly seek what God might be saying to our church in the midst. The “vibe” was akin to a family reunion, and it fitted perfectly with the theme of Synod which was “Family Banquet.”
It is without doubt that those present return to their mission units full of energy for the mission of our family, to advance the Kingdom of God. If you were there, be sure to report back well to your fellow parishioners – and if you weren’t, check in with your Synod representatives and find out all that went on. And may we see you all at our next festival event – the Diocesan Thanksgiving and Ordination – in Wellington this November!