Southern Province Inter-Synodal Gathering
Following the theme “Moving Forward Together,” Southern Province members will meet April 27-28 at Friedland Moravian Church in Winston-Salem to focus on the provincial structure work begun in 2009 and 2010.
“This will be a time to get the ‘whole system in one room’ for conversations about the new provincial structure which we adopted at a Special Synod in September, 2009 and was put in place through acts of the 2010 Synod,” explains Donna Hurt, director of Christian education at Home Moravian Church and chair of the Inter-Synodal planning committee. “We will reflect on how things are evolving as we have been living into a new way of working together, celebrate the progress we’ve made so far, and discuss how to build on that progress.”
Attending the event will be those who are directly involved in or affected by the provincial structure adopted at the 2009 Special Synod of the Southern Province. These include elected representatives to the 12 Regional Conferences of Churches, pastors serving Southern Province congregations and bishops of the Southern Province; full-time, certified Christian educators; and members and staff of the Board of Cooperative Ministries, Provincial Support Services Board, Provincial Elders’ Conference and Implementation Steering Committee.
Inter-Synodal conferences are different than Provincial Synods in that there is no legislative work. The 2012 Gathering will feature a mixture of plenary and small group conversations. Survey questions will be answered by attendees prior to the Gathering to provide a starting point for discussion group work during the event. In addition, the Regional Conferences of Churches, which are clusters of 4-6 churches and fellowships, will have time set aside to meet to individually evaluate, plan and build on the energy of the two day event.
A worship service planned and led by the staff and students at Moravian Theological Seminary from the Southern Province will be a highlight of the event. This service is open to who would like to attend on Friday evening in the Friedland sanctuary.
Northern Province District Synods
The three districts of the Northern Province — Eastern, Western and Canadian Districts — will each hold Synods this spring. Unlike the Southern Province’s gathering between Synods, the Northern Province District Synods do legislate on District-specific issues.
According to the Northern Province Book of Order, District Synods are designed to confirm and renew Christian love and fellowship; stimulate and strengthen the work of the Lord; assemble and distribute information concerning the work of the District, the Province and with world-wide Unitas Fratrum; and to review the work of each District’s congregations, boards and institutions, providing and considering ways and means for strengthening their work.
In addition, the District Synods elect boards and officers, including the District presidents and executive boards. Legislation on District matters is voted upon. And representatives transact other business related directly to the District.
Northern Province District Synods also lay the groundwork for matters that will come before a full Provincial Synod. Representatives at this year’s District Synods will discuss key topics and issues that will help pave the way for province-wide decisions.
Among the district-focused topics and discussions, each of these Synods will hold non-legislative dialogue on a major province-wide topic: the discernment process led by the Provincial Human Sexuality Task Force. The 2010 Northern Province Synod mandated that these discussions take place in preparation for legislation to be brought to the 2014 Synod.
The Western District Synod will be held April 26-29 in Appleton, Wis. “Our committee has been drawn to the fourth chapter of Ephesians, which will shape our Synod community,” explains the Rev. Jim Hicks, Western District Executive Board president. “We encourage all of our Synod delegates to study Ephesians 4, a rich chapter that challenges us with ‘unity,’ the work of ‘equipping the saints,’ ‘forgiving one another,’ ‘humility’ and ‘patience.’ There is urgency in this text we believe will guide Synod’s work.”
Much of the Western District’s work at Synod will be based on answering the question, “In what ways can the Western District Executive Board assist your congregation to be healthy.” Committees at Synod will be organized to address opportunities including lay leadership training, communication, best practices, financial challenges, youth ministries, spiritual/theological training and more.
The Rev. Susan Nienaber, a senior consultant with the Alban Institute, will assist the District as Synod chaplain. She will train committee chairpersons, consult with committees and offer encouragement.
The Canadian District Synod takes place the following week, May 4-6 at Good Shepherd Church in Calgary, Alberta. Their theme, based on Isaiah 43:19, is “God Speaks In Newness, Faithfulness, Oneness.” To make it even more appropriate, they’ve added, “God speaks and we respond in newness, faithfulness, oneness.”
“The Synod Planning Committee has been working hard preparing for the upcoming Synod,” says Lynne Hennig, Synod planning committee chair. “We are looking forward to energizing meaningful messages from our worship leader, Bishop Chris Gielser and the leadership of Synod chair Rick Santee and vice-chair Graham Kerslake.”
Canadian District congregations each send five-to-seven lay delegates and their pastors to the District Synod. In addition, participation from District youth is encouraged, with each congregation invited to send two youth delegates. Elections for the district’s Board of Elders (along with their president), the chair of the Board of Van Es Camp & Conference Center and the Canadian representative to the Board of World Mission will also take place.
Pre-Synod meetings are planned for March 31 (Calgary) and April 14 (Edmonton) to complete preparations.
The Eastern District Synod will be held At Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa. from June 20-23. Looking to Psalm 84:4 for inspiration, the Eastern District Synod is themed “Blessed Are Those Who Dwell in Your House, Ever Singing Your Praise.”
“As the Visioning Team reviewed the purposes of a District Synod — and certainly these events attend to the matters of electing district leadership and reviewing issues related to the work of the Province — they were reminded that District Synod offers a broader opportunity for us to gather in a spirit of prayerful exploration, discernment and ministry collaboration,” says David Bennett, Eastern District Executive Board president.
The Synod will use a process called “Discerning Circles” to facilitate discussions on key issues within the Eastern District. After studying data from district-wide pre-synod meetings, five Discerning Circles have been established to assist the work of the 2012 Eastern District Synod. Topic areas include “In-reach/Out-reach” (dealing with communication, mission development, worship ministry and more); Spiritual Formation; Christian Leadership Development; Complimentary Youth Ministry; and Stewardship.
This year’s process will offer a more focused approach to synod dialogue. Each Discerning Circle will determine what is important under its “ministry umbrella” and then select what it feels is worth further deliberation and possible advancement to the Synod plenary. Delegates were asked to choose which Discerning Circle they felt most called to by the Holy Spirit.
The Synod will also be set up “in the round,” making it easier for delegates to see each other and work together.
In upcoming issues of The Moravian magazine, we will report on the results of each of these important events. Synod news will also be shared on www.moravian.org. ν
From the March 2012 Moravian Magazine