A tale of ever-diminishing organizational headaches

Published March 1, 2001

With planning for next July’s General Synod now in its final stages, one headache that remains for organizers is how to get delegates from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to the synod site at the University of Waterloo, about 90 minutes away.

By the time delegates and partners fly in for synod in July, (one from as far away as Zimbabwe) this and other logistical problems will have been conquered.

An elaborate committee structure, held together by Anglican staff member Margaret Shawyer, coordinator of General Synod planning and consultations, is at work handling the at times nightmarish logistics involved in bringing more than 400 people from across Canada to the triennial meeting of the church’s chief governing body.

When Ms. Shawyer isn’t answering questions, drawing up plans, and writing notes for meetings, she is attending them. “There is a lot of crossover between the various organizing groups,” she said. “We were meeting every few months before; now we are meeting much more frequently.”

There is a committee for overall worship, another for worship with the Evangelical Lutherans, a committee for local arrangements, and the overall planning group, which is responsible for the agenda and all logistics. A focus of this year’s synod, which adds another element to the normal preparations, is the celebration of a new relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Although Ms. Shawyer and Dianne Izzard, (who handles all preliminary registration), are staff, about 30 volunteers also sit on these committees. Other national office staff get involved as needed, Ms. Shawyer said. Volunteer numbers will swell in Waterloo, she notes, to help with registration, information, and the companions’ and children’s programs.

Ms. Shawyer, who coordinates all four groups, has a metre-long critical path chart for synod and another for accommodation taped to the wall beside her desk. It neatly shows, in coloured lines and boxes, what has to happen, to whom and by when.

Her own monthly task list gets longer and longer as the countdown to synod gets shorter and shorter.

Under February’s list, for instance, there were letters to chairs of committees and councils about forums at General Synod.

About 16 items further down there was “order binder tabs” just beneath “second memo to councils and chairs re forums.” May’s list includes “list of people who need name tags,” “memo to diocesan bishops from general secretary Jim Boyles concerning youth members to synod,” and “rent truck for General Synod.”

Ms. Shawyer said three pieces loom larger than the all the rest.

The first is the preparation of the three-inch thick convening circular or agenda, which comes out in early May.

Unlike the friendly, and easy-to-read Guide to General Synod which was mailed out in January, the circular contains the dense stuff of a synod’s work: agendas, reports and proposed resolutions from the standing committees and councils of General Synod, memorials (resolutions) from dioceses and provinces, and backgrounders. Next is registration, and the third falls under the broad category of “local arrangements.”

The Complete Guide to General Synod 2001, mailed out in January and geared mostly to the first-time delegate, covers information on making travel arrangements with the designated agency, where and how to register for synod, dress code (casual except for the joint worship service with Lutherans and a reception) and rules.

It provides the rationale on what lies behind resolutions and motions, and on the morass of process needed to make a synod run smoothly.

Soothing tidbits to avoid embarrassment are offered, such as “Don’t be concerned if your contribution is not as articulate as it might be. There will always be members who are more articulate, or less articulate, than the one speaking.”

Along with information on where to pick up mail and do laundry at the university dormitory, the Ron Eydt Village, delegates also get a touch of whimsy.

“A word to the wise. These are university residences. The usual occupants tend to hang clothes on the floor, back of chairs or wherever. The rooms have places to hang your clothes but you may wish to bring a few coat hangers to avoid that crushed look.”

Ms. Shawyer’s job also includes all the arrangements with the university, assigning of rooms and meeting rooms, and the identification of delegates.

The local arrangements committee handles welcoming, information dissemination, and registration. “An extra piece this year is the Lutherans,” said Ms. Shawyer. Lutherans are also meeting in Waterloo at the same time as General Synod, but some distance away. On the synod agenda is a proposal to bring the two churches closer together and several joint events are planned.

Buses have to be lined up to transport several hundred people to the joint worship service on July 8, and back again.

The local arrangements committee has lined up a half-day daily children’s program called Adventure Link for Anglican and Lutheran children between 5 and 12 years old. There will also be child care available.

Every delegate is assigned to a home group, which meets every morning and evening, for prayer, reflection and the comfort of familiar faces.

The companions’ (formerly spouses) program includes a trip to the historic village of St. Jacobs, the Woodland Cultural Centre and Her Majesty’s Chapel of the Mohawks.

Planning for general synod starts years in advance of each one, said Ms. Shawyer, even before the last one is over.

Second in a series.

Next month: An overview of issues.


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