In spite of cold temperatures, fog and light rain, delegates and visitors to General Synod 2010 here in Halifax officially began their triennial meeting tonight with a warm and highly symbolic opening service at the historic Cathedral Church of All Saints.
Reflecting the meeting’s theme, Feeling the Winds of God – Charting a New Course, bishops, General Synod members, church partners and visitors processed behind sails of yellow, blue, red and green-the colours of the four ecclesiastical provinces of the Anglican Church of Canada. Bearers of the sail wore sashes made of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island tartan, representing the diocese hosting the assembly of the church’s governing body.
The colourful sails were followed by a white sail with the image of a ship’s steering wheel embossed with a crest of the Anglican Church of Canada. This greeted Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the church’s primate (national archbishop) as he entered the Cathedral at the very end of the procession.
Archbishop Hiltz was flanked by the bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Cuba and Uruguay, Miguel Tamayo, and the bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani. Both were invited to demonstrate the Canadian church’s commitment to partnership and companion relationship with Anglicans overseas.
Before proceeding to the altar, Hiltz, who wore a magnificent gold and red cope and mitre, stopped at the cathedral’s centuries-old baptismal font and addressed the assembly, reminding them that they are “joined to Christ in the waters of baptism.”
The four metropolitans – Archbishops David Ashdown (Rupert’s Land), Colin Johnson (Ontario), Claude Miller (Canada), and John Privett (British Columbia) – then joined Hiltz, each taking an ewer of holy water and a sprig of greenery. They sprinkled the assembly with holy water in the holy rite of blessing, also known as asperges, as the choir sang, Wash, O’ God, Your Sons and Daughters.
A palpable sense of lightness pervaded the service with the assembly clapping their hands and stomping their feet as they sang the hymn, The Trees of the Field.
In his homily, Bishop Tamayo reflected on the day’s gospel reading of the Parable of the Vine and the Branches. “It’s a time for pruning,” said Tamayo, as he urged the assembly to reflect on how they can cut “the things that weigh us down.” The hope, he said, is that pruning will yield fruitfulness and an assurance that “just as Jesus abides in us, we will abide in him.”
In a move symbolizing the diversity and inclusiveness of the Canadian Anglican church, intercessory prayers were offered in English, Cree, Inuktitut, French, Spanish, Cantonese, and Luganda.
The rector and dean of the Cathedral, Paul Smith, welcomed the General Synod attendees and spoke about his church’s tradition of “radical hospitality.” In a world that looks for peace, hope and direction, the Cathedral aims to be a place “that opens doors to the wider community,” said Dean Smith. Collections taken from the service will be used for the Cathedral’s outreach programs, he said. He also expressed the hope that all the “talk” at General Synod will be transformed into action “so that your action becomes the work of God.”
Built of local stone from across Halifax’s Northwest Arm, the Cathedral Church of All Saints opened in 1910. “Ecclesiastical architects describe it as one of the finest examples of perpendicular Gothic design in North America,” said the Cathedral’s information brochure.
The Cathedral, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Juan in 2003, is the final stages of a 15-year restoration project.