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Eastern Archdeaconry Synod

The Eastern Archdeaconry Synod gathered in Corfu on the weekend of 14-17 October 2021. Leslie Nathaniel shares with us highlights from Synod. 

The Synod met in person on the, normally, sun-drenched Ionian Greek island of Corfu – except for at least three of the days we had torrential rain storms that struck the whole of Greece. Some Synod members joined by Zoom. The Synod planning team from Holy Trinity Corfu were magnificent in their organization of Synod, and both the ‘home team’ meals, and the tavernas served up Greek food at its best. Just far too much of it, as we all discovered after a few days of eating!

Greece is notorious for its warmth of welcome – philoxenia – which was evident both with our hosts, and our engagement with ecumenical guests. Archimandrite Ignatios Soteriadis, Secretary to the Inter-Church Relations department of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece was with us throughout Synod. Ignatios was part of a panel, alongside the clergy from the Greek chaplaincies.

We were warmly welcomed to Corfu by Fr. Themistocles, General Vicar to Metropolitan Nektarios of Corfu; followed by introductions from the local team about the history of Corfu and the presence of Anglicanism on the island. We noted that in the Constitutional settlement in Corfu, the Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican churches are legally allowed to have a bishop! On behalf of the Greek Evangelical Church we were welcomed by Miltiades Pantelios and his wife Vita from ‘Lighthouse’, which Bishop Robert had been able to visit in February 2020 before all the lockdowns began.

We were graciously allowed to use St. Francis Catholic Church for our worship, and the Orthodox Centre for Spirituality for the other items of our programme – both examples of how well the churches co-operate on the island.

Apart from our normal business meetings with reports from the Chaplaincies, we had two Bible studies, one delivered by Clare Amos by Zoom Singing the Lord’s song with a stranger in our midst. Despite storms challenging the technology, Clare unwrapped the interesting dialectic of Ezra and Nehemiah versus Ruth and Jonah as strangers in the midst. Ruth is the counter-narrative of a grotesque story of abusive hospitality in the book of Judges and we were reminded of the ways in which God deals directly with her and makes his ways known through Ruth the stranger.

Canon Smitha Prasadam’s study "How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a Strange Land" invited reflection on Psalm 137 with truth telling imperatives spoken to God amid lament and loss. We gave thanks for lyrics that push us past reason, melodies that locate us home and futures beyond present despair. We even began by singing the ‘Boney M’ version of the Psalm! Clare also introduced the first module of the Lay Discipleship Course, focusing on the Lord’s Prayer (and with a slightly better Zoom connection).

This theme was picked up by Bishop Robert and Helen who joined us for most of Synod. “The God of heaven is the one who will give success and we are going to start building” (Neh 2.20) gave shape to his talk about how we walk together in faith as a diocese. Bishop Robert shared with Synod his recent experience of visiting Yerevan where he had attended a conference on religious freedom and world peace. There was an animated discussion to follow about the justice issues of the war between Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. His second talk centered on internal Diocesan issues and the current strategic and financial situation which the Diocesan Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Caspari, also outlined in his Zoom presentation.

Archdeacon Leslie chaired the Synod. Our final Synod meal ended with a similar expression of Greek philoxenia, involving the Catholic Archbishop, and other key ‘partnership’ guests. It may have rained for most of this Synod but we still came away warmed by much of what we had experienced, and with genuine thanks to the ‘host team’ of Corfu. By the way, Holy Trinity Church has an apartment that can be rented out.