“We are called, as a community of God’s people, to give voice to the story which shapes us, and into which our own lives are woven. The service we offer and the worship we celebrate are shaped by our witness, and give form to how we speak of the hope we have,” says Rev. Simon Hansford of the event.
Pray in the lead-up to the event as we gather to seek God’s will for the life and mission of the Church and articulate – together – our hopes for the future of the Uniting Church. We will join as a “fellowship of reconciliation” to listen and value each other as a body of Christ.
As members, there are a number of ways you can prepare yourself prior to the event.
Induction and training session will be held in the lead up to Synod to make sure you are confident using the platform prior to Synod in Session commencing. In the meantime, here are a few tips that you may find useful:
- Log in early: Give yourself 10 to 15 minutes to assess the interface and familiarise yourself with it, each day. A Windows PC or laptop will give users the best experience and provide a more user-friendly approach to the platform. This also helps in confirming if you can log in easily and gives you time to contact support if you are experiencing issues. Users must ensure that upon login they allow their computer’s camera and microphone.
- Make sure we can see you: Adjust your camera during small group sessions so that we can see you. During these sessions, make sure you are in a well-lit room. Make sure you look into the camera/screen when you are speaking, not in a different direction.
- Do not use virtual backgrounds: As we have all become more adept at using various video conferencing platforms, virtual backgrounds have also become more common. However it is requested that virtual backgrounds not be used.
- Mute and unmute: To keep external noise to a minimum it is good to have the sound on mute unless you are speaking. You can mute the sound in two ways—you can click on the microphone icon, or you can press and hold the spacebar on your computer/laptop to mute and unmute your microphone. At the beginning of each session, you will be placed on mute by the host.
- Small groups: We will be using the small groups discernment process a few times throughout the 35th Synod in Session. You will be assigned a small group (approx. 10 per group), each group will have an assigned leader and this group will remain the same for the duration of Synod. The Small Group Convenor will direct you into break out rooms during the session and your Small Group Leader will assist with information and instructions along the way. At the conclusion of a small group meeting, please refer to the program and ensure you are ready for the next session.
- Stand and stretch: It is important that you take regular breaks from sitting. Don’t feel confined to your chair. Build in breaks in between sessions to take a short walk or stand and stretch to help you refocus on the content at hand.
There are some general rules of courtesy for virtual (and in person) business meetings:
- Familiarise yourself with the program and prepare ahead of time.
- Be mindful that you are on the screen for all to see, so mute your screen when you need to.
- Even though it’s tempting, try not to multitask too much. We should be focusing on what is being discussed and considered.
- It’s important that you are prepared for the meeting as it is focusing on a particular issue. Please be on time (approximately five minutes prior to the commencement of each session) and have the related reading done.
- Refrain from private behaviour—i.e. scratching your armpits/similar or falling asleep. We can see you!
The Synod meeting can be intimidating for a first timer. The Moderator chairs the meeting and wants to hear from a diversity of members. Your voice is as important as any other voice. In seeking to discern God’s spirit, the smallest voice can effect change. Additional time at the microphone may be given to members for whom English is their second language. Make sure you read the Manual for Meetings and you will understand how you can engage effectively in the meeting.
The Synod App will be released soon and this will contain all the information needed prior to the event like proposals and reports. For Synod 2021 we are not providing papers, so be sure to have your device set-up (iPhone, iPad or Laptop) to access all the reports, nomination forms and other materials.
The Synod uses meeting procedures which are set out in the Uniting Church’s Manual for Meetings (MfM). Consensus procedures are its preferred and primary method for decision-making. A presentation in the first business session of the meeting explains the Synod’s business processes. Former Assembly General Secretary, Rev Terence Corkin, in the introduction to the 2009 revised version of the MfM, states that it provides the official standing orders and rules of debate for the Church.
The Uniting Church believes that we hear the voice of God in the councils of the church. Church meetings that encourage community, and listening to one another in a spirit of openness and humility, are more likely to discern the will of God. Terence Corkin
For the duration of the four or five days of the meeting, the members of Synod become a community, listening respectfully to each other as they seek to discern God’s will. It is important you come open to the movement of the Spirit which leads to hearts and minds being changed, and the building up of a Godly community.
For this community to function at its best, its members need to commit to attending every session; to come fully prepared (more on this later); and to engage all the necessary skills in building communication: listening; assertion; conflict-resolution and collaborative problem solving (MfM 1.6).
Many people have affirmed the value and benefits of the consensus process, and the way that it can deal with both simple and more difficult issues. When the community is operating at its best, its members can fully experience a fellowship of reconciliation.
Another book that people have found quite helpful is The Church Guide to Making Decisions Together by Terence Corkin and Julia Kuhn Wallace. The book is reviewed here and you can visit their website to find out more about the book and purchase it if you wish.