Thursday, March 08, 2012

When two or three are gathered together ...

I have been attending the diocesan synod of Argyll and The Isles for some years now - since before I retired, come to think of it - and my memory of both it and the General Synod tends to involve an overwhelming desire to nod off after lunch. This could, of course, be blamed on the nature of our synod meetings: because people have to travel so arduously to come together in Oban, we have a two-day event - and the clergy have three days -  with a jolly dinner (left) after the pre-Synod day and the Synod Eucharist. (This year we all piled into a large bus in the rain and were swept out to the Bishop's palace by the shore to drink wine before returning to the Gathering Halls for dinner, but that's another story that might include my speculating on the effect on the neighbours if we'd all invaded the wrong house ...)

But to the Synod. This year, despite all the junketing, I didn't sleep at all at Synod. For a start, I had work to do; the entire meeting was held round tables on which were bowls of grapes and chocolates and bits of paper and a marker pen, and I was facilitating the discussion at one of them. I would never have believed the positive effect that this simple move had: instead of sitting in rows, able to communicate briefly and surreptitiously with at most two people, we were made to sit with people from all over the diocese and we were encouraged to talk with them, get to know them a bit, and - most importantly - come to trust them as we spoke.

By the time we came to the discussion of the Anglican Covenant, the knitting lady had laid aside her knitting and we were all leaning forward over the table. People became passionate but there was no hostility, and there were moments of sharing that seemed to belong to a real family. We could, it seemed, have gone on all afternoon, and found it hard to stop when we were called to order. It was alive, this church, and I could see that life on faces elsewhere in the room.

I don't yet know the outcome of our discussion. It will be assessed from written responses of the groups and then shared. I got the impression that we thought the Covenant un-Anglican, and that we felt very aware of our uniquely Scottish identity. But I had more than an impression of something else, something very closely tied to the presence that was in the midst of us as we gathered together.

And for me at Synod,  that was a first.


  1. Isn't 'gathered together' a good description for the activity you describe.
    Interacting with each other on an equal footing, strikes me as much more appropriate for a Christian assembly than interacting almost on an individual level with 'authority' up front.

  2. Well summarised, dear one ;-)

  3. We had tables for the first time at Glasgow & Galloway. I dreaded it, but actually enjoyed the experience! And I met and talked with two new young clergy that I wouldn't otherwise have said a word to!

  4. What a wonderful idea, Christine. As a survivor of more Diocesan Conferences and Governing Body meetings than I care to remember, I would so much have enjoyed the chance to interact with other members in this way and think it would have been much more fruitful.