NEWS

175th Synod opens with prayer

By Matthew Kieswetter

The 175th Synod of the Diocese of Synod gathered in the early evening of Sunday, May 15, 2016 at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Appropriately, this was the Day of Pentecost, the day when we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early Christian community. Bishop Robert Bennett, in the name of those gathered, offered a Collect that prayed for the Spirit’s gifts of life and unity, “that every tongue may tell of your glory.”

In his Charge, Bishop Bennett identified Synod’s primary purpose as gathering “to discern and be attuned to the Creator’s Will for us both in our particular time and within our unique context.” Bishop Bennett noted that the Bishop’s Charge would roll out in a two-stage process, consisting of his Sunday night address and Bishop Co-Adjutor Linda Nicholl’s words that would begin Monday’s proceedings. In considering his coming retirement, Bishop Bennett wondered about apt images for his work with Bishop Nicholls in the coming months. Looking to the Scriptures, perhaps the story of the prophets Elijah and Elisha would provide an image of the mantle being passed (albeit in dramatic fashion, with Elijah ascending to heaven by way of flaming chariot). Or, considering the upcoming Rio Olympics, one might conjure up the sight of a relay race, with the careful passing of the baton from runner to runner.

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Contrary to the assumptions of many, Bishop Bennett challenged that Christianity is not a faith that one can live out in isolation. It is not about one’s personal relationship with God existing in a vacuum. Rather, the Christian message is about the coming of the Reign of God, “the ending of injustice and the restoration of right relationship with God and between human beings and creation.” Moreover, the last three Marks of Mission, concerning justice-making, must find their rooting in the first two. “You have to say ‘Amen’ to God’s call to be in Holy Relationship.”

Bishop Bennett looked to his earlier Charges for themes in his episcopate. A few years ago he observed the “love/hate… one/off… come close/stay away” relationship between the Church and the wider culture. In looking at today’s culture he spoke critically about the vapidity of a world overcome by ‘selfies’ and other forms of self-serving egotism. Instead, the Church can model a more holistic community, a “community of communities” where “we gather ‘in Christ’ to be sent out ‘in Christ.’”

Bishop Bennett reflected on Micah 6:6-8 (“and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”), challenging those gathered to consider what it such compassionate living might look like in light of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. Indeed, reflection would continue throughout the 2016 Synod. Specifically, on Monday and Tuesday, delegates would focus on the current refugee crisis, relations with First Nations people, and Huron’s partnership with the Diocese of Amazonia.

Bishop Bennett’s address concluded in words first offered to the assembly in Ephesus: I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that with the eyes of hearts enlightened you may know the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints. (Ephesians 1:15-18).

Bishop Bennett’s address concluded in words first offered to the assembly in Ephesus: I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that with the eyes of hearts enlightened you may know the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints. (Ephesians 1:15-18).

The congregation responded to the Bishop’s Charge by way of song. From You Call Us, Lord, to Be: You call us, Lord, to serve: to die that we may live, to know we best receive when joyfully we give. This theme of self-giving love would be echoed in Archdeacon William Harrison’s discussion of viability, vitality, and the missional Church.

The processional hymn appropriately set the tone for the evening’s opening Eucharist, invoking the Triune God’s sustaining presence in the life of the Church. I bind unto myself today/ the power of God to hold and lead,/ his eye to watch, his might to stay,/ his ear to hearken to my need,/ the wisdom of my God to teach,/ his hand to guide, his shield to ward,/ the word of God to give me speech,/ his heavenly host to be my guard.

 

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Bishop Bennett with Rev. Canon Dr. Tim Dobbin

The first reading, Micah 6:6-8, was read in Portuguese by Maria de Lourdes Bernardino de Souza, a special visitor and presenter from Huron’s companion diocese, the Diocese of Amazonia.

Andrew Keegan Mackriell and the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir led the Psalm in beautiful Gregorian Chant. Perhaps echoing sentiments felt in the congregation, the words were sung “All of them look to you to give them their food in due season” (104:27).

Bishop Bennett welcomed two new clerics to the Cathedral Chapter of Canons: The Rev’d Karen Kovats and The Rev’d Dr. Timothy Dobbin.

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Bishop Bennett with Rev. Canon Karen Kovats

The Order of Huron was awarded to Canon Paul Rathbone, in recognition of his tireless efforts in the ministry of finance and administration for the Diocese.

 

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Paul Rathbone, the recipient of the Order of Huron, with his father and Bishop Bennett

The Great Thanksgiving, from the Scottish Episcopal liturgy, provided words of hope for a Church seeking new life and new opportunities for ministry in a changing and often troubling world. “In the first light of Easter glory broke from the tomb and changed the women’s sorrow into joy. From the Garden the mystery dawned that he whom they had loved and lost is with us now in every place for ever.”

Led by Cantor and Huron University College Professor of Liturgics, The Rev’d Dr. Lizette Larson-Miller, the Breaking of the Bread was sung in Arabic, using the fraction anthem used at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem. A memorable experience for all.

During Communion the Choir sang the beautiful anthem “Dum complerentur” by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come they were all with one accord in one place saying: Alleluia. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven. Alleluia. As of a mighty rushing wind and it filled all the house. Alleluia.”

Those gathered went forth into the world rejoicing in the power of the Spirit, singing My Life Flows On in Endless Song: The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing. All things are mind since I am his; how can I keep from singing?

Photo: Davor Milicevic