Saturday, 20 July 2024

European Continental Province (ECP) Synod 2023, Herrnhut, 22nd to 25th June

I arrived on a warm Thursday afternoon, after a flight and three trains. Most of the Synodals were staying at the Komensky guest house, just five minutes' walk from the church where the Synod sessions took place. The Synod began after dinner. Or at least it should have done, but the coach from the Netherlands was delayed and so we were instead able to learn about the recent refurbishments to the church building in Herrnhut. The opening service eventually took place, but it was 10:30pm by the time the first session was over.

The theme of the Synod was 'Connected'. The main business of the Synod was to elect a bishop, and it was explained that the role of the bishop is a connectional one. The process is different to the British Province, as there is a selection committee who choose suitable candidates in advance. Throughout the day on Friday, each of the six candidates was given half an hour to speak about themselves and answer questions. Having only ever experienced the British way of doing things, this seemed strange, but in such a large province covering many countries and languages, people are not always known to everyone.

Speaking of languages, I would not have managed without the help of the two sisters who translated German and Dutch into English, both of whom have previously attended our own Synods, Sr Frank and Sr Wilson. There were some others who also relied upon an English translation, such as the sisters from Albania.

After hearing from all the candidates there was a proposal that the Synod vote for up to two bishops, and that it was Synod's wish to elect at least one sister. There was quite a lot of discussion, but the proposal was passed. A few other items of business were dealt with including an interim report from the Provincial Board and two financial proposals. We also heard from some of the smaller countries that are part of the ECP, and greetings were received from the Czech Mission Province and British Province (my big moment!).

On Saturday morning the first round of the election took place, with synodals able to choose one or two names. It only took this one round for Sr Rhoinde Doth from the Netherlands to reach the required two-thirds majority and make history as the first female bishop in the ECP. The Synod then decided to continue to see if it was the will of Synod that another bishop be elected. After two more rounds there was no one near the majority so the election ended. It was good to see how the other five candidates were acknowledged and thanked and each was presented with flowers. The closing session took place in the evening at which everyone was thanked including the chairing panel, expertly led by Br Peter Vogt.

Obviously, I wasn't going all the way to Herrnhut for the first time and not see as much as I could. A small group of us went to God's Acre and saw the graves of famous Moravians such as Count Zinzendorf, Anna Nitschmann, Christian David and Leonard Dober, and climbed the watchtower from where you can see Poland and the Czech Republic. I also saw the room where the Daily Watchwords are drawn, and the bowl used for this purpose.

As I mentioned earlier, the theme was 'Connected'. This was the first in-person Synod held in the ECP since COVID-19 and it was clear how happy people were to feel connected once again. My personal highlight was the Singstunde on Saturday evening at which we sang 'In Christ there is no east or west'. It was a joyful moment singing with sisters and brothers from across Europe. As Moravians, we truly are 'one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth'.

Br Michael Newman
Provincial Board

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
N10 3TJ


020 8883 3409

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