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By Allie McDougall

The 181st Synod of the Diocese of Huron opened on Sunday, May 16 with worship service live streamed from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Ontario.   

The service started at 10:30 am, with The Right Reverend Todd Townshend, Bishop of Huron, as celebrant and preacher. As in the last year’s annual gathering of the Huron representatives that took place in September, no people were seated in the cathedral’s pews due to the pandemic restrictions in the province of Ontario. Thanks to the new video equipment installed at the cathedral the faithful across Huron were able to watch the service at which Ven. Rosalyn Kantlaht’ant Elm was collated as Archdeacon for Reconciliation and Indigenous Ministry.

With participants gathering virtually for the second year, the 181st Synod of the Diocese of Huron was convened to its first working session after the service, at 12:30 p.m., broadcast live from Church House in downtown London.

Bishop Todd Townshend began the proceedings with a land acknowledgement, followed by an opening word of prayer. He took a moment to acknowledge the efforts of all who have made a second virtual synod possible and welcomed a number of new clergy.

The Rev’d Canon Marian Haggerty then offered a touching Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, remembering all synod members who have died in Christ.

Following a “year in review” slideshow, Bishop Todd offered an informal reflection on our current context. He acknowledged and thanked the Diocesan Executive staff for their incredible hard work in navigating this challenging time. Considering the reports of the archdeacons, Bishop Todd declared that he has never felt more hopeful for the future of the church. He encouraged us not to follow trends but to discern individual communities’ gifts and needs as we strive for the spiritual health of congregations and wider communities. He highlighted the importance of sharing of good financial stewardship through wise investment, collaboration, and exploration. He also took time to give thanks to Canon Paul Rathbone for 20 years of faithful service as Diocesan Secretary-Treasurer as he embarks on a well-deserved summer sabbatical.

Bishop Todd’s charge to Synod this year was delivered in two parts, serving as an extension of last year’s charge, this time focussing on the theme “Yielding to Life in the Spirit”. The first part of the charge explored what it means to life live yielding to the Holy Spirit’s direction and how this might shape us for mission and ministry as a diocese. Bishop Todd shared that he believes we are already equipped to dive into life yielding to the Spirit by virtue of our existing practice and traditions, but that we must be centred on generating new life and not simply operating efficiently. The cultural context of the Diocese of Huron has shifted from the idyllic post-World War II period and the liminality of this moment calls us to respond with the assets we have at our disposal to adapt to our new reality.

A summary of the financial report for 2020 indicated a diocesan operating deficit of $3,000, a $15,000 surplus from Camp Huron, and a diocesan accumulated surplus of just over $300,000. The full report is available from the office of the Secretary-Treasurer.

A video greeting from both Bishop Marinez Bassotto of our companion Diocese of Amazonia and the Companionship Committee were shared. Bishop Marinez spoke of the shared struggles between our dioceses and reported on the hardships and victories of the Amazonian people. She assured us of the ongoing prayers and deep love for Huron held by our sisters and brothers in Amazonia. The Companionship Committee encouraged us to persist in prayer and consider offering financial support. We continue to offer prayers and solidarity with our treasured companions.

Throughout the day, multiple video updates were shared about the ongoing work of ministries, partners, and committees around the diocese. These included updates from Canterbury College and Renison College, Camp Huron, and an encouraging testimony from faith witness Ms. Linda DeBerger.

The first session concluded with a video honouring recent retirees and their accomplishments was shared. We look forward to celebrating these individuals and their faithful service in a more fulsome way once this is safe to do and give hearty thanks for their numerous contributions.

Synod reconvened at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, May 17th following a brief service of Morning Prayer led by The Ven. Kristin Aikman. A letter of support and encouragement from The Rt. Rev’d Anne Germond, Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario was shared prior to the presentation of the second part of the Bishop’s Charge.

Part two of the charge focused on the stewardship of our material resources, particularly the question of our buildings. With hope and optimism, Bishop Todd highlighted that while we face decline, we remain well-positioned to continue to persist in mission. Diocesan Council will be working to develop resources for parishes as they navigate this season. The structures and culture of the diocese will be examined to determine what might be changed or altered to ensure we are not limited by them. The charge concluded with a revisitation of the four-fold vision outlined at last year’s synod and how we have already begun the work of being a learning, just, diverse, and new church. The complete charge is available to read or view on the diocesan website.

After a presentation from Social and Ecological Justice Huron, a motion sponsored by SEJH members Ms. Caroline Sharp and The Rev’d Andrew Wilson that synod encourage Church House and all churches to adopt the “Moving to Light Green” initiative and its recommendations by 2022, with progress to be tracked in vestry reports beginning in 2023. The motion was carried. Another motion from Canon Chancellor Mr. Jim Ferguson and Vice-Chancellor Mr. Chris Sinal to allow for the use of electronic means to hold electoral synods and to amend the phrasing of Canons XVIII and XXI was carried in both the lay and clergy orders.

As in the first session, the day was featured several video updates from the congregational coaches, the Anglican Foundation and their new “Say Yes to Kids” post-pandemic initiative, the Justice League of Huron, the Refugee Committee, and Proud Anglicans of Huron. Mr. Peter Andersen offered another thoughtful reflection as a faith witness. The Rev’d Canon Greg Smith supplied an update on the tremendous fundraising effort of the diocese in raising $386,417.55 for the Primates’ World Relief and Development Fund.

The election of lay and clergy delegates and alternates to Provincial and General Synod were announced and accepted, as were the deanery nominations for Diocesan Council. With the business of the day drawing to a close, the 181st Synod of the Diocese of Huron concluded with many thanks and acknowledgments to all who contributed to making our second online synod a success. Synod will reconvene in-person in May 2022, conditional on the safety of public gatherings at that time.

Allison McDougal is a Huron Postulant Student. 

181st Synod of the Diocese of Huron - Opening Worship Service (video)
Bishop Todd's Charge to 181st Synod (article)
Bishop Todd's Charge to 181st Synod part 1 (video)
Bishop Todd's Charge to 181st Syod part 2 (video)
Bishop Marinez: Message to Huron Synod (video)