Sunday, 29 May 2022

Looking Ahead to Synod

Having been privileged to serve as the Chair of Sessions at the last two British Provincial Synods, it is interesting to find myself looking ahead towards our next Synod as a member of the PEC. And this Synod will be intriguing for all of us, for this will be the first ever Synod to be held online and not in person, face to face. Our usual Synod can be demanding enough, with all the logistics and practicalities to be organised, but at least the delegates are all together in one venue, with important discussions taking place on the floor of Synod, as well as over dining tables or in the bar between official sessions. Sadly, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, it will not be possible for us to be together in this way at this upcoming Synod. Instead, all the sessions, debates and votes will have to be conducted over the internet and this is certainly a challenge for those of us who are preparing for this momentous event and even more so for those who will be responsible for actually making this happen for us.

The decision to hold our Synod online was one that was not taken easily by the PEC, and in fact it was only reached after a long period of careful and prayerful consideration. We realised this could be very difficult goal to achieve and that some people could possibly be excluded from an online Synod because of technical issues. However, given the uncertainties arising from the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and the fact that it is soon going to be three years since our last Provincial Synod, the PEC decided to go ahead and start planning an online Synod. Now, it has to be said that this was a leap of faith, so to speak, but, having made the decision, the PEC put together a team of people. This group is made up of Br Michael Newman and Br Philip Cooper, the Chair and Vice Chair of Synod Sessions, who were elected in 2018. Others in this group included Sr Naomi Hancock, Sr Sally Ann Johnston, the Clerk, Br Joachim Kreusel, Sr Lorraine Shorten and the four PEC members. Over the last few months this group has met on Zoom many times, initially to ascertain whether the idea was feasible in the first place and then, when this course of action was agreed upon, the best way to proceed.

Follow up meetings gave us opportunities to share ideas, explore possibilities and to work on the practicalities of putting together an online Synod. This process involved investigating how other denominations, principally the Anglicans, the Methodists and the United Reformed Church, had risen to the challenges of holding their own Synods and Conferences online. This helped us to fully appreciate that one of the main areas we needed to secure was technical support for this endeavour and it was eventually decided to go with Nottingham Audio Visual Services (NAV) to be our so-called 'Tech Guys'. It is hoped that they will be able to guide us through the whole process of presenting Synod online, especially with regard to how delegates will log on to, participate in and vote at the sessions. It was also agreed that a group of people considered vital to the running of Synod, such as the Clerk, the Chairing Panel and the current PEC, would meet for Synod at Ockbrook. This group will facilitate the functions of Synod and they will have back up from the nearby NAV technical support.

It is worth stating once again that this next Synod will be a challenge for those of us who will be taking part in it, either from the comfort of their own homes or at a safe distance from each other at Ockbrook. This is certainly a new adventure and a departure from what has been done before, but this will serve as a wonderful opportunity for the Moravian Church in our Province. We will be able to show that we can be flexible, that we can adapt and that we can still ensure that important and necessary activities such as Synod take place, even under trying and testing circumstances. And we have a lot to do at this Synod, including the launch of the UK Child Poverty Petition, and there will also be opportunities to discuss the future of the Moravian Church in our Province, The Decade for Evangelism and Project 32. We also have to elect PEC members so that we can have a full Board without any gaps for the first time in three years. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we would be grateful if you would keep Synod 2021 in your thoughts and prayers, not only when it takes place between the 10th and 14th June, but also in the build up to it and the follow up afterwards. We are embarking upon a journey together and all we can do is put ourselves into the hands of our Chief Elder, Jesus Christ, and ask Him to guide all that we do together to further the work of His Kingdom and the glory of His Name.

Br Paul M Holdsworth

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