I suppose I get to see a synodical convention from a rather different perspective than most folk. Together with ELCE Chairman Pastor Jon Ehlers, I sat at the table looking out at all the faces – delegates, other ELCE folk in attendance, visitors – church and civic, and the host congregation (many of whom were not sitting per se but coming and going with the tasks of hospitality – and well done to them for a fine two days of looking after us). Jon and I sit there to go through the agenda, hear the reports, take note of who wishes to speak, attend to the resolutions and amendments, count the showing of ‘red cards’ when there is voting (voting for the elected positions is by secret ballot) and generally try to keep everything going forward and smoothly.
Hopefully all the paperwork is done – and there were lots of it this year! – and there are friendly jibes that sitting ‘up front’ is like “riding at a rodeo” or “going on stage with children” – and please no one tell me that I’ve just compared the synod to a raging bull or a small child! 😉 – because for all the planning and timetabling that is done, no one knows exactly what’s going to happen – what might be said – what is amended – what story or message will shape the moment or even the Synod. It is the ‘drama’ of Synod. Ideally you want to walk between having things preprogrammed to the point of robotics and total chaos! Synods bring together congregations and organisations (people) who are ‘on the same team’ but whose individuality shines through. I have often said that the best committee is ‘a committee of 1’ and it might be efficient but it isn’t efficient if everyone afterwards does their own thing so synods are times when we all get to agree on things and walk together into the future.
As I’ve mentioned before, this Synod was an ‘admin heavy’ one because we are facing an organisational restructuring which we haven’t done in our lifetimes. One of the big things to get our heads around was that we were looking primarily at the charity and limited company aspect of being together and not being the Church together. We can be separate charities and be the Church and we can be one charity and be the Church. We, as Church, decide. The time was spent doing what is tough – talking, discerning, writing resolutions, more talking, more writing, revising resolutions, and more of the same – amid the reports, the finances, and the worship. Such a process is a potential nightmare but, praise God, we came together to agree on a way forward for this year so that at Synod 2019 the new organisational shape of the ELCE will hopefully be approved.
The process for this year is that essentially each congregation will be encouraged to participate in processes of information gathering and reporting (by 31st January), in a church wide meeting (think of it as a one day Synod) in February or March, and then in preparing the governing documents (April to August).
I am already looking back on the 64th ELCE Synod as a good one. One of listening, working together, worshipping together, and wanting to be in the best organisational shape possible so that we can still be what we are – the people of God following Jesus and serving those around us. Our synodical theme was ‘O God, what next?’ from Psalm 13 – and I’m very interested in finding out! GS