Plans ramping up for General Synod 2010

In just less than a year, over 500 Canadian Anglicans and visitors will gather in Halifax, N.S., for General Synod—nine days of decisions, conversations, and worship. “We’re expecting perfection,” said the coordinator of General Synod planning, Margaret Shawyer, with a grin.

General Synod 2010 will be held June 3 to 11, corresponding with a celebration of 300 years of continuous Anglican worship in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Inspired by the Maritime setting, General Synod planners chose the theme “Feeling the winds of God—charting a new course.”

Delegates will make decisions on several major topics, including possible new governance structures, the Primate’s role, and the strategic plan, Vision 2019. Daily themes will be drawn from the Marks of Mission, and time is planned for jazz vespers and worship at Halifax’s historic St. Paul’s Church.

Ironing out the details

Ms. Shawyer and her assistant Dianne Izzard are working hard to prepare for this triennial event. They organize the new online registration process, assist the work of the nominating committee, and keep in contact with the General Synod Planning Committee—the volunteer team that shapes the event. Another volunteer group, the Local Arrangements Committee, manages details in Halifax.

Over the summer, Ms. Shawyer is revising the convening circular, the meeting’s Bible of sorts, which contains all the resolutions, reports and background documents needed by General Synod delegates. Among other tasks, she organizes resolutions as they trickle in from committees and updates the orientation booklet given to all delegates with new content and cartoons. As part of a “greener” General Synod, the circular will be mailed out to delegates as a DVD.

As for Ms. Izzard, she’s in regular touch with the site, St. Mary’s University, ironing out specifics like meal prices, accommodation, and chair rentals. She’s also the contact for delegates—the over 300 laypeople, clergy, and bishops who are coming from across the country to represent their dioceses at General Synod.

Few of these delegates know the details that Ms. Shawyer and Ms. Izzard work on beforehand. For example, tablecloths for the 50 delegate tables must be ordered in advance—enough for one mid-week change, and a couple on hand in case of accidents.

There is also often a designated “walker” who strolls with a stopwatch, timing the distances between major meeting sites.

27 years of General Synod

Being a “walker” is one of the many jobs that Ms. Shawyer has done over her years staffing nine past General Synods, including three as coordinator. At her first General Synod in 1983, she ran the information desk, answering questions about agenda items and restrooms.

“I went through a pair of Italian leather loafers then, just by running around the gymnasium,” she said. “Then I came home and slept for a whole day afterwards.”

Ms. Shawyer counts the 1989 St. John’s General Synod among her most memorable. At that time the meeting included a daily television show, so she and Anglican Video Senior Producer Lisa Barry travelled to Petty Harbour to film Newfoundland life. They were billeted with a fisherman’s family, and happily took up an invitation to go grab the nets at 3:00 a.m. in a double dory. They watched the sun rise over the ocean, then scooted to church.

Then there was the hot and hilly 1998 Montreal General Synod. “If you were smart, you’d get up early and get a coffee at the boulangerie,” said Ms. Shawyer. “That saved my life.”

The 2010 General Synod will, sadly, be Ms. Shawyer’s last. She will stay on until the next winter to tidy up loose ends, and then retire to spend more time with her family and granddaughter.

“It’s been so much fun,” she said. “It’s always a privilege to go to General Synod.”

Lay and clergy delegates must be elected to General Synod, but if you are interested in presenting a display, email Becky Boucher, production manager, Anglican Video. Observers are welcome.

Interested in keeping up-to-date on news, opinion, events and resources from the Anglican Church of Canada? Sign up for our email alerts .