By Andrew Rampton
The earth is the Lord’s and all the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those that live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. (Psalm 24.1-2)
This text is an excellent encapsulation of the theme of the 2015 Synod gathering for the Diocese of Huron. The theme to which conversations and presentations returned again and again was that of how the people of Huron can best live out their baptismal promise to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation.
From Bishop Bob Bennett’s charge on Sunday night to Bishop Terry Dance’s closing remarks on Tuesday morning and at every turn in between, the role of Christians as a part of God’s creation and our capacity to live in both harmony and discord with creation was front and centre. Synod gathered on the evening of May 24, the Feast of Pentecost, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The initial business of Synod, including declaration of a quorum, welcoming of members and observers, and the commemoration of the faithful departed, was covered starting at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m. dinner was served on the cathedral lawn: an old-fashioned barbecue dinner of hot dogs, hamburgers, and pulled chicken hosted by the diocese and Huron University College.
The diocesan family at Synod enjoyed fellowship, music by Three Penny Piece, an Irish-flavoured bluegrass band, and good food — all shared with those dropping in and those arriving for the worship service later that evening.
The meal, following the theme of Synod, was served with entirely recyclable or compostable cutlery, plates, and napkins. Synod attendees had been supplied with reusable water bottles in their registration packages. Following the dinner, where some 550 people were served, only one small green garbage bag of waste was collected. Everything else was taken away to be recycled or composted appropriately. A very “green” meal and a hands-on example of environmental stewardship.
The opening eucharist began in the cathedral at 7:30 p.m. with joyous hymn-singing and the entry procession, which, as one attendee was heard to remark, “is the best parade of the year.” The worship, accompanied by the cathedral organ and choir as well as an instrumental ensemble, reflected the inspiration and energy of the day of Pentecost while directing us to use that energy in faithful stewardship of God’s creation.
Bishop Bob’s charge to Synod framed the work and thought of the meeting with three pillars.
The first, a quote from Janet Hurlow, encourages “Children of God (to) use earth’s treasures in God's Love.
The second pillar drew attention to the reminder from our indigenous brothers and sisters that Earth is a gift of the Creator and that our relationship to it and its creatures is one of interconnectedness and responsible caring.
The third pillar addressed the need of the church to find its collective moral voice and speak against the current human-created crises of climate injustice and environmental degradation.
Over the three days of Synod, the incredible amount of work and ministry that takes place in Huron was made clear by the number of presentations from various groups and committees. The exciting ministries taking place in every corner of Huron was highlighted by reports and presentations from the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer; the Diocesan Investment Directives; Congregational Coaches; Youth Chaplains and the Youth Committee; Huron Hunger Fund/Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund; Huron Church Camp; Lenni Lenape, Algonkian, Iroquoian Council; EnviroAction Committee; College of Deacons; Diocesan Golf Tournament; Social Justice Huron; and Anglican Church Women.
Theology at Synod
In three separate sessions led by Rev. Canon Ken Gray, the Synod gathering was repeatedly called to consider Scripture and church teaching on the place of humanity in God’s creation and our role in preserving that creation.
Ken highlighted the importance of a shifting viewpoint from one of hierarchy where humanity has been given the earth by God to do with as it sees fit, to one where we acknowledge our place as a part of creation, not separate from it.
We were also reminded that while changes such as these are not simple or easy, this difficulty and discomfort is likely a sign of the urging of the Holy Spirit. God does not often push us toward simple and easy answers.
Ken also reminded us of the importance of story-telling as an educational tool, using his personal faith story as an example.
He applauded Huron for the many environmental issues already underway in the diocese and pointed out that, as Christians, we are called to live out the Resurrection in all parts of our lives, including safeguarding God’s creation, and not to fall into despair just because things may look grim today.
The topic of theological education in Huron rose repeatedly over the sessions of Synod. The opportunities for education are many and varied. The diocesan strategic plan update outlined the introduction of the Education for Ministry program to Huron: a four-year educational program that seeks to make disciples equipped for leadership of all Christians. Huron University College, Canterbury College, and Renison University College all offer a variety of adult education and Christian formation opportunities, including an exciting new licentiate of theology diploma granted by Huron College.
A Vision for the Future
Bishop Bob and Bishop Terry shared with Synod an update on the diocesan Renew project, including their visions for how this project will change the diocese.
They spoke passionately about the need for funding to restore assistant curacies in parishes throughout Huron. The missing step in clerical education and formation that assistant curacies once provided needs to be restored if newly ordained clergy are to develop proper tools for effective ministry.
The need for more complete education, of both clergy and laity, was also addressed. Education of all people is necessary if we truly expect all people to live out their varied ministries in the diocese. Alongside the need for education is the need to support episcopal ministry in the diocese. The Anglican Church is one led by its episcopate, but maintaining funding for the number of bishops needed to make the episcopate as effective as possible can be difficult. A financial endowment, such as the goal of the Renew program, would provide continual funding for all of these vital ministries in Huron.
Huron in the World
Huron’s ministry extends well beyond the geographical borders of the diocese. A presentation from members of the Companion Diocese Committee about Amazonia, Huron’s companion diocese, was accompanied by the blessing and commissioning of another group who are to head down this summer.
A video presentation from the Council of the North reminded us of the challenges of population, geography, and language that ministers in those dioceses face and just how important the prayerful and financial support by the larger church is.
Order of Huron
Bishop Bob named William Lupton to the Order of Huron for ceaseless dedication to worship, music, and education in the diocese over the past 50 years.
Bill has worked tirelessly to encourage fine music in parishes throughout the diocese, working as an organist himself and teaching many students who have gone on to do the same. He has served as organist, music director, and an instructor at Huron University College for the past 20 years, patiently teaching many of the clergy present at Synod how to sing in worship.
His admission to the order was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation from the assembled congregation.
Cathedral Chapter of Canons
At the Synod service, Bishop Bob appointed the following clergy to Huron’s Cathedral Chapter of Canons:
Synod 2015 was an efficient business meeting of the diocese, which is something everyone can appreciate. But more importantly, it was a gathering of great fellowship and thought-provoking presentation and discussion. The diocese has been charged by its leaders to consider very strongly how best to plan and work toward the future — a future where resources of all kinds are managed with prudence and the integrity of God’s creation has been safeguarded for generations to come.
Andrew Rampton is a postulant from the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, studying theology at Huron University College