When it came to delegate preparation at the 42nd General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, it’s fair to say that young people led the way.
A full day before the majority of delegates arrived at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, more than two dozen youth synod members were present at the venue where General Synod would take place. Gathering together on the morning of Tuesday, July 9, they spent the better part of the next two days learning about the rules of General Synod, the issues at stake and the significance of the land Anglicans had gathered on.
“We’ve been discussing the issues at synod…in our structured time together, but listening to the conversations at supper last night, pretty much every group was talking about one of the motions,” said Alexa Wallace, a delegate from the diocese of Saskatoon who serves as Sunday school and youth ministries coordinator at St. John’s Cathedral.
Like many of the young delegates in Vancouver, who range in age from 15 to 25, Wallace is active and visible in her local parish. Three of the youth are candidates for ordination. Others are present on various provincial executives and previously attended their provincial synods.
“I think you’d be shocked to find any one of us that our bishops do not know by name, for good or for bad reasons,” joked Wallace, 25.
Good humour and camaraderie were in abundance among the youth, with multiple young delegates highlighting “fellowship” as one of their main expectations heading into General Synod. Yet they were also fully aware of the significance of the occasion.
“General Synod as a whole, we’re considering two major motions that are going to change how our church looks, and add onto that a new primate,” Wallace said. “The church we see on July 17 is going to be very different from the one we start with today.”
Joanne Minnett, from the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, ran against eight other people to become a delegate at General Synod.
“I was really, really passionate about a couple of different topics that are in the circular, and I was really interested in attending…. The topics are very interesting, and I’m really excited to see the outcomes of them,” Minnett said, noting the interest of young delegates in the vote on amending the marriage canon.
Brynne Blaikie, who attends St. George’s Crescentwood in Winnipeg, expressed the desire of young Anglicans to make their voices heard.
“I wanted to come here because I figured that I had quite a few relevant opinions to share on all the resolutions at the synod,” said Blaikie, 21.
The youth began their time together by meeting with Prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner, who briefed them on procedural aspects of General Synod. The detailed questions of the young delegates compelled the prolocutor to “pull out her book of canons a few times,” Wallace said. Later, they learned about the resolution on ending human trafficking that would be coming before synod, and the church’s recent work in this area.
In the afternoon, the youth visited Stanley Park, where they celebrated the Eucharist and took part in the Spoken Treasures tour, led by Indigenous company Talaysay Tours. The tour ended at totem poles, where their guides told them stories about the history of the land from Indigenous perspectives.
“We thought that was really important in grounding the youth delegates into the space that we’re in, especially with the issues coming around the self-determining Indigenous church,” said Sheilagh McGlynn, national youth animator for the Anglican Church of Canada, who facilitated the gathering of young synod members.
In the evening, the youth visited St. Paul’s Anglican Church, where they walked a labyrinth and ended the day with communal prayer.
On the morning of July 10, Bill Mous and Siobhan Bennett, synod members from the diocese of Niagara, gave the youth a briefing on the rules of order. Representatives from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) spoke about their latest work, while members of the worship committee asked for volunteers to help lead worship in the coming days.
In the afternoon, youth heard presentations from the Anglican Foundation of Canada, visionary sponsor for General Synod 2019, as well as on the Canadian Lutheran-Anglican Youth (CLAY) gathering and its current National Youth Project, which focuses on housing and homelessness. Members of the church communications team also sought volunteers to make Instagram posts throughout General Synod from the youths’ perspective.
The briefing of youth before the start of General Synod is a relatively new development, which began at the 2013 Joint Assembly of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. McGlynn said that the gatherings had proven effective in making sure young delegates—who often have less experience at formal church proceedings—are well-prepared for the meeting to follow.
“It’s really just a time for them to get to know each other, build community and to go into this meeting with some good, solid grounding around the issues [and] around how decisions get made so they can fully participate,” she said.
With significant items on the agenda for General Synod 2019—the election of a new primate as well as votes on a self-determining Indigenous church and, perhaps most controversially, amending the marriage canon—such preparation aimed at steeling the youth for the discussions to come.
“I think that no matter what happens at synod, there are going to be people hurt,” Blaikie said. “I think one of the biggest hopes is that no matter the outcome, we can all still be a part of the same church and we can all still be together.”
Summing up the prevailing sentiment among the youth, Wallace added, “We can remember we’re all beloved children of God.”