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Synod, The Way Together

As we meet together at Peter Moyes Anglican Community School early October 2019, let us reflect that we are doing as disciples of our Lord have done from the earliest of times.

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Synod, The Way Together

by The Revd Dr Gregory Seach | Warden | Wollaston Theological College

According to John’s gospel, notwithstanding the depth of their despair after the death of the one they followed, the disciples gathered together.

There was clearly fear and trepidation, which John emphasises by the mention of ‘locked doors’. But it was in these very circumstances of fear, of thinking all was lost that, as they gathered together, their Risen Lord came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Again, in John’s account, that is when Jesus breathes on them and says, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.

Yet even in the Acts of the Apostles (where the outpouring of the Spirit is somewhat delayed), one of the first things the disciples did after Jesus ascended was to gather together in Jerusalem – about one hundred and twenty persons, the author says.

And their task at that meeting was to begin ‘re-ordering’ how the new Church would be, finding a replacement for Judas. Then, when ‘they were all together in one place’ on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit arrives, and the disciples become empowered for the mission Jesus gave them.

In other words, while we often think that the first great ‘Council’ of the earliest Church happened in Jerusalem (Acts 15), our Scriptures reveal, in various ways, that meeting together – for encouragement, for discerning how the Church is to be shaped and function, and what it is to do – was of the essence of being the followers of Jesus.

And this happened in times of fear and threat, times of crisis and division, and even times of joy: over what to do with Gentiles, as in Acts 15. Or who the Church really understood Jesus to be, as at Nicaea and (among others) Chalcedon. Or whether, in England, the Church would follow the patterns of the Roman or Celtic expressions of Christian faith (as at Whitby). Or to determine that a path was open for the ordination of women to the full ministries of the Church.

In Acts, the disciples of Jesus are first described as followers of ‘the Way’. In Greek, that word is Hodos. And, in the same language, if people or things are brought together, then the prefix syn- is always added. So, for example, a synthesis is a coming together of various ideas. Given the flexibility of Greek, the word synodos, (from which our word Synod obviously comes) can be read either as a coming together mutually to find a way, or a coming together of those who are of the Way.

As we meet together at Peter Moyes Anglican Community School early this October, let us reflect that we are doing as disciples of our Lord have done from the earliest of times. We may come with feelings of fear, trepidation, or nervousness. We may come with a sense that there are some divisions to be worked through. Certainly, there will be things to be discussed and resolved as to how we, as Church in this diocese, order ourselves.

With all of this, however, let us chiefly remember that we come together as followers of the Way, to work out a way together. And let us remember that it is as we come together that the Risen Lord will be with us, and will give to us, again, the great gift of the Holy Spirit, to empower us for our mission in our parishes, agencies, our city and diocese. And it is as we meet together that we grow into who we are called to be.

Published in Messenger, October 2019

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