First time with a red lanyard

without comments

Hello from Halifax.

I arrived here late Wednesday evening, was met by the local synod folk and driven to St Mary’s University, the General Synod venue, in a schoolbus that had rather less room between rows of seats than my legs are long. Not as well appointed as the plane journey, but who cares? I was surprised at how many familiar faces there are – and how many people remember me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been – this is my eighth General Synod, though my first as a member (from the diocese of Toronto).

Most of the Integrity staff team arrived Thursday about lunchtime – I was lurking near the residence registration desk to intercept them – and the (pre-shipped) display arrived at almost the same time. Normally that would have travelled as someone’s luggage, but Porter Airlines has tighter size restrictions than Air Canada- – it’s a saw-off. It was somewhat chaotic for a while there, but Bob (veteran of many General Synods) and Caleb (Patti’s son, 13, and at his first GS) got it up fairly promptly. Having done that setup task many times, I know what a chore it can be – and what a good result we get. Lots of pictures of Happy Homos in Church Settings, rainbows all over the place, done with faaabulous taste.

This year we’ve seized upon the IntegrityUSA’s phrase (and logo!) of “All the Sacraments for All the Baptised”. That sums up Integrity’s aims very well – and avoids the LGBTQ* alphabet soup (that you then have to explain, and it becomes in-group code). The rainbow-circles logo has pride of place in the display, (I’m relying on Patti to provide photos), on the printed literature, and we have thousands of stickers with it on to hand out. I’ve been pleased to note the appearance of those stickers on diverse people already.

The first big event was the opening service at All Saints Cathedral (where my seminary roommate Paul is the Dean – now THAT makes me feel old). Integrity staff people (wearing yellow lanyards [exhibitors] on their nametags) were sitting somewhere in the space (I didn’t see them at all), but Synod members [for the first time including yr scribe, with a red lanyard] were marshaled in various parish halls and processed in to sit in various places. Somehow half the rowdies (my diocesan team) ended in the almost-back rows, me next to my rector. I’m not sure if that added to our not behaving in a buttoned-up fashion, but fun was had, from being amused at the contradiction between hymn words “gift of finest wheat” and “the communion bread is all gluten-free” to sotto voce mutterings about anthems going on and on and on and delaying communion [“get on with it! I’m hungry!”], but I think it was more feeling at home, in OUR church, even though we are in a different time-zone. We were the last row of synod members, behind us were local arrangements people, and one of them whispering at some point “I want to go to YOUR church- you have fun!”. I take that as a compliment. I realize, though, that just about everyone there DOES have fun at their church – wherever in the country that might be, across five timezones and 15deg of latitude. This church is important to us, or we wouldn’t be spending ten or twelve days away from home to be here.

Not only fun, but joy. I found myself tearing up a few times – both in the cathedral, and next morning at the opening worship. The same sail-shaped banners moved up and down aisles, and we sang about feeling the winds of God. It’s a responsibility, trying to discern the best direction for the church to advance the Commonwealth of God here – and sometimes that’s NOT just preserving the institution status-quo. Sometimes it’s going to be difficult and painful. The opening service preacher (I’ve lost my order of service, so I can’t give you his name), the bishop of Uruguay and Cuba, was talking on the metaphor of vine-dressing, pruning and encouraging growth, and said, “We cannot do nothing”.

Back to SMU, and the first social evening. This – in the corridors and over meals and in the non-structured get-together time in the evenings – is when a lot of the very important work of Synod happens. It’s not just the legislative stuff, sitting in plenary or in committees; but the face-time, talking to other people from all over, that the connections and learnings are made. Integrity, like the other displayers, I’m glad to say has a lot of access this time around at this venue (unlike some synods, where smaller dining rooms have kept us outside at very valuable contact-times).

Yesterday, the formalities (we have quorum, the 39th General Synod declared in session); group-building and getting-to-know-you exercises; and then some housekeeping and some substantive governance stuff. One of the getting-to-know activities had us changing nametags and milling about – I was at various points impersonating Anne, a laywoman from Qu’Appelle (Saskatchewan), Felix from Quebec, and the bishop of Yukon. I’m not sure WHO was pretending to be me (and my nametag isn’t telling me), but that weaving is a good metaphor for our time together, placing ourselves in the situation of people from all over the country.

The sexuality discussions will take place over five days in different groupings – Sunday to Thursday. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile it’s off to breakfast, and then another full day.

Written by Chris

June 5th, 2010 at 3:31 am

Posted in General Synod