‘Follow Me’ to Synod 2014

‘Follow Me’ to Synod 2014

Synod: One of the ‘series of inter-related councils by which the Uniting Church orders and governs its life and, as such, a familiar gathering that occurs at regular intervals usually over a number of days.

Preparation for the next Synod meeting is intensifying in the Secretariat and it’s prompted me to wonder about this strange word that is only used in the Church and in astronomy. (Yes, in astronomy, where it means, according to Google, a conjunction of two or more planets or stars. Who knew?)

The word ‘synod’ comes from the Greeks and is a combination of the words for ‘together’ and ‘way’, which resonates with ‘a pilgrim people always on the way towards the promised end.’ In its origin the word synod gathers up and encapsulates the whole rich tradition of covenant and pilgrimage for the whole people of God journeying towards their promised end.

Add to that the colour and movement of Middle Eastern caravans converging on a stopping place. Conceivably a town or city, a desert oasis, or temple, to take refreshment and rest, to share stories and to enjoy each other’s companionship for a time. The Synod meeting at Knox Grammar between 27–30 September becomes a stopping place for the pilgrim people of God on the way.

There is a whole lot of preparation going on in the Synod offices. A gathering of more than four hundred people is no small thing to organise. There are regular huddles of people addressing logistical issues; there’s a draft agenda taking shape on the GenSec’s whiteboard; nominations for Synod membership and other elected positions and appointments are coming in; reports and discussion papers are being finalised and everyone is working to a deadline.

The Moderator and the Moderator-elect are not only preparing for significant life transitions, but also spending time reflecting on where we’ve been, pondering the invitation of the present moment and anticipating where we might be going. Not to mention the personal learning and challenge that attaches to any leadership role in the Church, but particularly that of Moderator.

There also appears to be plenty of activity in Presbytery-land in anticipation of the Synod gathering. The Executive Directors seem to be everywhere talking about tipping points, learning networks, mission and property, and the budget situation.

I’m aware of special Presbytery meetings, intentional discussions around particular issues and a whole buzz of conversation happening in coffee shops, corridors and car parks.

In all of this preparation and buzz, it’s important to remember that the Christ is always ahead of us preparing the way and that the way that he prepares is a particular one. To paraphrase some words of Richard Rohr, Jesus clearly taught the disciples about surrender, about the reality of suffering, the necessity of humility, and about servant leadership and non-violence. Dealing with the issues before the Synod will no doubt provide plenty of opportunity to practice.

According to the Gospels, the disciples mostly didn’t get it so he demonstrated by walking the walk that went with the talk and by saying to them, ‘Follow me!’ There will be a lot to consider and discuss, there will be energy and controversy and excitement and celebration but even so, it’s not a Synod meeting that Jesus is preparing the way for. In fact, this Synod meeting is just one small step on the journey of this pilgrim people on the way to the promised end. Jesus has a much bigger agenda and following him has changed, is changing and will change everything.

Rev. Jane Fry, Acting General Secretary

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