Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Synod Stuff

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland opened this morning in Armagh. The big news of the day was Archbishop Eames announcing his retirement, which will take effect on 31st December 2006. It was really interesting watching the Synod Chamber this morning. We had arrived at about 10.55am for an 11am start, but due to a huge number of people present, including media types and visitors, couldn't get a seat. So there was me and Alan, standing at the back. It meant we had an excellent view, though, being sort of eyeline height with the bishops on the platform.

The President's speech was going on for a bit, dealing with a variety of topics (e.g. Northern Ireland politics, Education, Ministry Training etc), and the three media cameramen and three photographers were prowling like tigers around the room, up and down the aisles taking random shots and shooting footage. Until 'the moment'. It was heralded by Eames saying that he was ordained deacon in 1963... and then it happened. Suddenly, all the media people moved very quickly to in front of the platform to get the moment on tape. And there it was. He has announced his retirement, and the search begins for the next Archbishop of Armagh. Who could it be???

The rest of the day was taken up with the seemingly confusing processing of Bills, Resolutions and Motions, and then the Reports began, from various agencies and groups of the church.

Tonight's highlight was the Synod Service, in Armagh Cathedral. Being an ordinand can sometimes be a bit of a strange experience, in terms of the new level of connectedness or independence from our sending parish. But tonight the ordinands were given some recognition (of sorts), being included in the Procession at the service. In fact, we were the lowest of the low, at the very front of the procession, but when we got to the Chancel, we had some of the best seats in the house (or cathedral), being behind the bishops, right at the Communion Rail. The Communion service lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes in total, but the organ and choir were very good.

I was also really pleased to have the opportunity to meet and talk to Dr Harry Uprichard, the Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly. He was one of the ecumenical visitors in the procession, and we all ended up in the Chapter Room after the service (where a certain Bishop from the deep south got shocked by the loudness of the organ with all stops out!), so I made a bee-line for him! I told him about how I had enjoyed his books, and encouraged him to keep at it! It also appears that he has a new book coming out, when he manages to get some time to write - seemingly it is a busy time being Moderator.

So that was Day One of my first Synod. And back tomorrow for Day Two for more reports etc...

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