In June 2024, the Eastern Synod will be electing a new bishop. As we engage in this time of discernment, Bishop Pryse offers some reflections on where and how the bishop’s ministry is exercised.
Our synod’s constitutional documents tell us that the bishop is called to “provide pastoral leadership and counsel to ordained and diaconal ministers, congregations, synodically recognized ministries and areas of this synod.” Eastern Synod Bylaws Part VII, Section 1. In my experience, the primary locus of that work is the table, the Lord’s table, the meeting table, and the dining table.
The Lord’s Table
The bishop exercises a full Word and Sacrament ministry, presiding at the altar and proclaiming God’s Word in congregations and regional gatherings of our synod. Congregational visits have been the beating heart of what has sustained me during my term of service in this office. The discipline of regularly preparing and delivering sermons at services across the territory of the synod is a spiritually grounding exercise that provides a frame within which the day-to-day work of the bishop is held and supported. Presiding at the table reminds me of the church’s calling to provide good food to hungry people, to help fill whatever part of them feels most empty.
The Meeting Table
The bishop convenes gatherings of people around a myriad of meeting tables. Meetings of the Synod Council, Officers and staff. Meetings of the Synod Assembly. Congregational Council meetings and meetings of pastors and deacons. The bishop participates in the meetings of the National Church Council and the Conference of Bishops. The bishop will be called upon to sit at the table of other committees and working groups, some ecumenical, national or international. They will sometimes engage with government officials and secular media. They will be called upon to arbitrate conflicts, resolve disputes and administer discipline. They are called upon to be wise counsellors and prudent mediators, always honouring their promises to uphold and abide by the constitutions and enactments of our church.
The Dining Table
The bishop is privileged to share food and drink with God’s people in their churches, homes, and communities. At these tables we can establish friendly and mutually supportive relationships with leaders, both lay and ordained, across the territory of the synod. The bishop needs to be genuinely curious about other peoples’ lives, their communities, experiences, and perspectives. This table offers a steady diet of ham, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, chili, Solomon Gundy, and the widest possible variety of noodle and rice-based casseroles. (Jellied salads are purely discretionary!) More importantly, it offers a steady diet of understanding, mutual support and care. It is an honour to sit at the synod’s dining room tables.
Always eat what is set before you. Always be thankful! And always remember to keep your fork!