As I explained at the end of my post about the 2013 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod, the Prague Anglican Chaplaincy volunteered to host the 2014 Synod meeting. It was held last week between Thursday 25th – Sunday 28th September and I have to say that I’m still recovering from the experience!
In agreeing to host the Synod meeting in Prague, I wanted to overcome two issues. Firstly, long-standing Synod members had told me that when the Synod had last met in Prague, during the time of my predecessor, it had been held in a suburban hotel and attendees had felt rather isolated from the heart of the city. Secondly, when being solely based in a hotel, for example as we were in Izmir in 2009 and Athens in 2012, worship has to take place in part of a conference room which always lacks the atmosphere of a church or chapel.
So with the support of my Church Council, I decided that we would host the Synod meeting using the facilities of our host Kliment congregation of the Ceskobratrská církve evangelické, that we use week by week. All worship could therefore take place in Church with our various sessions for Bible Study, talks, reports and business meetings being held in the hall on the third floor of Klimentská 18 that we use for post-Eucharistic Coffee Hour during the colder months of the year. Then, with several nearby hotels, I was sure we could negotiate suitable accommodation for everyone attending the Synod.
Eventually, this is what I was able to organise, though not without a few pitfalls along the way. One problem I encountered was that the hall in Klimentská 18, was already booked by another organisation for part of Friday 26th September which meant we had instead to use the Church for three of our sessions. Far greater problems were caused by people sending in bookings long after the specified date for doing so, or wanting to make last minute changes to bookings. As I said on numerous occasions, organising a meeting of the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod, ought to come with a serious health warning!
It was pleasing to have many positive responses to both the location and the way the Synod meeting was organised. MOODs Hotel, Klimentská 28, provided comfortable, high quality accommodation and the friendly staff and wonderful food received many appreciative comments. My thanks to Lenka, the reservations manager, and Mojmír, who masterminded the various meals.
Equally appreciated was being able to use the Church for all our acts of worship. And with the Diocesan Secretary, who is an excellent organist, being present for part of the Synod meeting, we were able to sing hymns as part of our Friday lunchtime Communion service and at Evening Prayer on both Friday and Saturday.
We enjoyed three challenging and extremely well prepared Bible Studies, led by Canon Leonard Doolan, Vicar of Cirencester. He came on the recommendation of Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, Senior Chaplain in Athens, a recommendation that was fully vindicated by the quality and method of presentation used by Leonard. As one who is constantly giving out week by week, it is always good to receive fresh spiritual input.
Our new Diocesan Bishop, Rt Rev’d Dr Robert Innes, joined us late on Friday afternoon, flying in, along with his Chaplain Canon Meurig Williams, from Palermo where they had been attending the Italy and Malta Archdeaconry Synod. A bit of poor planning meant that the two meetings slightly overlapped. He acknowledged that our Archdeaconry that covers Central and Eastern Europe, together with Turkey, was part of his diocese about which he knew little and was very keen to learn more.
Bishop Robert addressed the Synod meeting on Saturday morning, explaining a little about his background, what he had been doing since being consecrated as a bishop in Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday 20th July, and how he envisages his episcopate. But as well as answering questions, he was keen to hear from the Synod members about what issues they would like to see addressed as he begins to formulate strategic priorities for our far-flung Diocese in Europe.
As is always the case, some of the most valuable time at our residential Synod meetings is that spent over meals or late night drinks, enjoying social interaction with colleagues and leading lay people who often only see each other this one time a year. The Saturday evening was deliberately left free so people could do this and get out and enjoy Prague at the same time.
I gave an invitation to any who would like to join me in having a meal at one of my favourite bar-restaurants near to where I live, Restaurace Pod Juliskou, and ended up being accompanied by one third of the Synod attendees, including Bishop, Bishop’s Chaplain and Archdeacon. It did give the bar-restaurant staff who know me well, a bit of a shock when I brought in thirteen guests!
The Synod meeting ended with all the attendees joining the regular St. Clement’s congregation for our Sunday Sung Eucharist at which Bishop Robert was the celebrant and preacher. It was a wonderfully joyful service with good music and great congregational singing. Bishop Robert preached a challenging sermon, interspersed with some humour, which you can listen to here on our Church website. Then, masterminded by Ata, the Synod members were provided with a splendid lunch with some Iranian flavours.