First-time member of synod gets crash course on church politics

By on September 1, 2001

Shara Golden of Fredericton gained in confidence as General Synod week wore on.

Waterloo, Ont.

SHARA Golden, a first-time member of General Synod, threw herself into the role with passion and commitment.

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“I first checked out the hall at the university the day before, and it was not set up. People were irritated and rushing. I thought ‘what’s the plan here?’ But then, she said, the process fell into place, the hall was readied on time and “I felt at home.”

Initially elected as an alternate from the diocese of Fredericton, Mrs. Golden, 47, found out she was going to synod weeks earlier. She was the only woman lay delegate from the diocese.

As a human rights education officer for the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, she is a veteran of conferences and meetings.

Mrs. Golden says she loved it when the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, “declared us to be members of General Synod. I was no longer an alternate, then. I was really a member of synod.”

At first Mrs. Golden voted with some hesitation. Synod delegates cannot abstain unless they have a clear conflict of interest and have declared it in advance.

“I found the information we had to devour prior to and during the synod somewhat overwhelming. I kept wondering when it was going to stop, and I was on overload by the third day.”

However, after a few votes she was putting up her hand with confidence.

Her table group consisted of other lay and clergy delegates from Fredericton and some from Newfoundland. “We discussed why we were making the decisions we made. We didn’t always agree, mind you. I felt we made some good ones, and I definitely made some difficult ones.”

Days after synod, she was still reflecting on the whole experience. “I don’t know that I am not still a newbie” she said. “General Synod is still a big picture that I need to look at for all the tiny details that I may have missed.”

One of the highlights of her experience, she says, was the adoption of full communion with the Lutheran church. ” I am so happy to be part of something big in our church, a historical event the likes of which I will probably not see again in my lifetime. ? One day my grandchildren will talk about the day the two churches signed the declaration and say ‘my grandmother was there’.”

However, she was disappointed by one event meant to enhance contact between the two churches. Mrs. Golden was among a group of Anglicans bussed to the nearby Lutheran convention for a presentation on the politics of food and water.

“I went there to talk with people and got talked at instead. The subject was not inviting and we didn’t ask for the presentations. I felt like a captive audience for a political agenda.”

She also found the joint worship service did not satisfy her wish to connect with Lutherans. In the short walk to the service she talked to a Lutheran pastor who was the son of a Lutheran pastor, and had three brothers who were also Lutheran pastors.

“We shared our concerns and our love of our churches and hopes for what we could bring to them together in communion. I also asked him if they call themselves priests, or pastors. These are the kinds of little questions I had. I found out-it’s pastor. ‘Oh, I thought. One difference.'”

Surprises? “The size of the hall, the friendliness of the delegates, the spirituality of the members,” she said. “I didn’t expect the anonymity of it all. There were no collars, no purple or black colours for the most part. I couldn’t tell who was a priest, who was a bishop. It was really good because I didn’t have to worry about getting titles right. I’d just go up to people, stick out my hand and say ‘Hi, I’m Shara’ and they’d say something like ‘Hi, I’m Terry.’ Moments later I’d find out I had been talking to a bishop.”

Mrs. Golden said she was moved by aboriginal issues. “Their pain was so apparent. It was my first time to hear the pain. Yet, I felt it would have been more so had we not had the 1993 apology (from the primate) and the eight years between where reconciliation had begun.”

When a motion was made to stop hearing native stories the night before the day given over to indigenous issues and a healing service, Mrs. Golden put up her hand to vote it down.

She also found the healing service moving. Many of the three-person prayer groups had native women in them, and Mrs. Golden said she wished she had gone up twice, not just once. “I feel badly that I missed the opportunity to have those beautiful First Nations women pray for me.”

Women were visibly lacking in leadership roles, she said. “The committees were balanced, but strong leadership in women did not come out, save for the aboriginal women. They were front and center.”

The primate, she said, “was constant. He is the same. That’s been good for the church and for the first nations because he has been consistent.”

Mrs. Golden said she thought the prolocutor, Rev. Rod Andrews, was excellent. “And I am terribly impressed with Jim Boyles and his beautiful spirit.”

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