Climbing COVID-19 infection numbers, closed schools and overflowing ICUs all pointed to one decision — postpone the 138th Diocesan Synod planned for Nov. 6.
The decision was made during a short meeting of the Diocesan Council Executive Committee Oct. 1. Members voted unanimously to direct Synod staff to prepare for a virtual Synod to be held next year if an in-person gathering cannot take place before November 2022.
A Diocesan Synod must be held in 2022 to elect delegates to Provincial Synod and, depending on timing, General Synod.
“We don’t have anything that requires us to meet in 2021,” said secretary of Synod David Peer. “There is nothing critical to make us meet, although it would have been nice.”
This is the second year in a row that Diocesan Synod has not been held due to the pandemic. The decision to plan for a fall synod was made in the summer, “when everyone was optimistic,” said David.
But the concern now is a fifth wave.
“All the trends in New Brunswick are moving in the wrong direction. We couldn’t wait any longer. We had to make the decision now,” he said.
Was it a hard decision? Yes and no, said David.
“It’s so great to meet together as Synod delegates, and it’s sad when we can’t meet,” he said. “It’s where we build and strengthen relationships and learn what’s happening around the diocese.
“It was an easy decision because we always want to place the safety of our people first. We know Christ gives us hope.
“It came down to safety. It’s just not that critical.”
Diocesan Council will discuss a new date for 2022 at its next meeting.
The decision was not a surprise given that, at the Sept. 25 meeting of Diocesan Council, there was much discussion on whether they should go ahead with the large meeting.
Members who spoke erred on the side of caution, suggesting postponement unless the situation in New Brunswick and elsewhere suddenly improved.
The Synod Office staff had been at a standstill, ready to prepare the convening circular, but not wanting to invest a tremendous amount of resources should it become unnecessary.
As well, Greater Chapter meetings would have to have been held in October.
Staff will begin to investigate how to organize a virtual Synod, which will no doubt mean hiring outside expertise.
“It’s one thing to vote yes and no,” said David. “It’s entirely different to elect delegates with the issues of scrutineers and secret ballots.
“It’s possible. We just have to figure out how. Other dioceses have done it. Given time, we’ll find a solution that works for us.”
1. The head table is shown, facing synod delegates, in this photo from the 2019 Diocesan Synod, the last time it met. Gary Barfitt photo
2. This graphic breaks the news that Diocesan Synod has been postponed until next year.
3. Synod delegates vote during a motion at the 2019 Diocesan Synod. Derwin Gowan photo
4. Bishop David Edwards gives the Bishop's Charge during the 2019 Diocesan Synod. Gary Barfitt photo