The Tale of the Bi-Annual Diocesan Council:
Today I return to work after an intense weekend in which we held the biannual diocesan synod As I left my house, I took in the weather for the day. It reminded me of one of those days in September when summer is giving way to fall. The air is cold enough to convince one to wear a jacket, but memories of summer still ride along the gusts of wind. It is a rainy, drizzly, blustery day with moments where the wind flies and thrashes through the tunnel that the buildings on either side of me have created. The rain from yesterday and last night have pelted the trees and their battered leaves lay on the ground. Unhooked doors fly free and the dumpster lids flap frantically. For a moment I start making plans to go apple picking and corn mazing until I remember where I am. It’s strange to be thinking about fall while my mom sends me pictures of the crocuses we planted last year.
I would have no problem staying at home today, wrapped up in blankets with tea and a book but since that is exactly what I did yesterday, off to work I go to take care of wrapping up things left over from the Synod. And here I am in the church office, writing this being the only thing I really can do since the wind has knocked out our power and internet, I would like to update you all on what I have been doing here since I've mostly been writing about my feelings and challenges. Since the most recent project has been the synod, I will begin with that. As I only have (almost) three years forming part of the Episcopal Church, I have never attended a diocesan synod. I actually wasn’t entirely sure what it’s purpose was initially, but after having prepared, participated and supported the event I have a much better understanding. For those of you non-Episcopalians reading this, the synod is basically a management meeting of the diocese where next step decisions are taken, new officiants are elected and grievances aired.
My principal role was to help prepare for the meeting and then run around during the meeting to make sure that it ran smoothly. It was the first time I had ever done such a thing for a large event. The weekend was a rather chilly one, similar to what I have described earlier which made for some uncomfortable evening gatherings. The one main thing that I was in charge of was to stuff the
welcome folders with various papers and items such as the programs, liturgy, and voting cards. Before the synod, Bishop Fransisco had given me a list of the items he wanted to include in the folders, which I promptly took care of. There were several papers that he wanted left out, for example the pastoral letter, as he wished to distribute this after he delivered it in speech form. There were a few other documents that were supposed to be inside the folder, but were not printed until last minute for a variety of reasons.
For some reason, instead of handing the folders out at the beginning of the conference, we were told to hand them out at the official opening ceremony which would happen in the evening of the first day. Within an hour of the ceremony, we were told that the opening liturgy should be removed from the folders (which were in cloth bags) because we would be going through that before handing them out. Frantically, we created an assembly line to accomplish the task quite quickly. We also realized that I had forgotten to bring the pens that were supposed to be in the bags we were giving out. Jonas ran back to the church quickly to get these. Again, we quickly stuffed the bags with the pens.
After this, we were made aware that the handout of the program of events for the whole weekend had a few rather significant mistakes, or that something had been changed last minute. Again, we rushed to the folders to first take out all of the programs while someone else made the appropriate adjustments and printed the new programs. The assembly line formed again to re-stuff the folders.
That evening, we had two other instances regarding the folders. First, Bishop Fransisco opened up the night by reading the pastoral letter. The original plan was to hand out the letter while he was reading it so that everyone could follow along. We all waited, poised at the signal to hand out the letters but it never came. After reading the letter Bishop Fransisco announced that a copy of the letter would be in the folders that we would hand out shortly. Also to be found in the folders, was the list of commissions and positions that people had been nominated for within the church. This, we were also previously instructed to keep separate. At this point we were cracking up about the whole situation and again rushed to at least put a letter and list on top of each folder for the time we would hand them out. Unfortunately, we were not quick enough and the announcement to hand out the folders arrived. Joelma ended up handing out the folders and I handed out the loose papers and in the end all was well but I was grateful to not have to deal with those folders any more.
Truth be told, that was the worst thing that happened during the whole weekend. As my first synod ever in the church, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of meeting and sharing moments of unity with people from all over the Diocese. It was also neat to see the very democratic process that unfolded even within a hierarchical type church structure. At one point during the meeting everyone had a chance to speak and air grievances. There were even two representatives in place to make sure that even the most hesitant voice was heard.
The Exploits of the Youth Group
|Cleaning up one of the rooms at the building|
Traipsing Across the Cow Pastures
In mid May, I was invited to accompany Bishop Fransisco and the secretary, Jonas, to visit the northern region of the diocese on pastoral visits. These happen every two years and the Bishop preforms any baptisms and confirmations that are also scheduled around the same time. The countryside is very beautiful, green with many mountains and hills, lakes and rivers. The area has a strong German heritage and many communities continue to speak German to this day. My blue eyes were not out of place at all.
|A dish called entrevero I learned to make.|
We traveled all over the place. Even though the different communities are relatively close, the roads are often dirt and full of potholes. It also rains
fairly often which doesn't make conditions better. In the ten days that I was there, we lost two tires. Even so, it was worth the trouble. Each village we visited was exactly that, a quaint village with cobblestone streets and neighbors who all know each other. One night the bishop felt that his blood pressure was rising, so we popped into the local pharmacy to get him something. By the next morning, the whole town knew that a religious figure, two men and a girl with blue and orange nails (me) stopped in the pharmacy the previous night. The church members easily identified the bishop and entourage and the bishop was reprimanded for not letting anyone know about his blood pressure because they surely would have helped.
I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and relished being in the countryside, meeting new people and getting to know others better. This region of the country in fact has many active churches but very few priests with one priest attending to 14 different communities. While discussing this with one of the priests and the bishop, it was decided that I would go up to help out. The current plan is that I will spend the month of October there most likely helping some youth groups to form more officially or in what ever capacity they need me. I'm really looking forward to it; and as it is a farming community I may just start my days by milking cows!