Synod: Shut away in a building? by Jane Andrews
Every Sunday morning, as soon as I turn on my car, I receive a notification from my phone’s Maps: ‘___ minutes to Robina Anglican Church’. Depending on the traffic and how long I overslept, this can be cause for concern or turn into a debate as to whether I can slip through Starbucks on the way to church. This notification on my phone is also illustrative of a concept found in the Archbishop’s Presidential Address to Synod. In this Address, he said:
“In his book Imagining Mission, Jonny Baker asks, “what [would] church look like if we assumed that presence in the community meant participating in life rather than being shut away in a building?””
Before COVID, I would have told you that church was in the same building every week. I always knew where I would park my car and where I would sit. When the pandemic hit, I went online as most people did. I enjoyed sending the small love hearts over the livestream and sending comments. Once it was safe, I came back to a physical building. For me, the church has an address.
There were two concepts at Synod about church being in a building, both in a physical and metaphorical sense.
Firstly, the Canons Interpretation Canon Amendment Canon was proposed to define the definition of ‘accustomed worshipper’ to include worshippers that attend church via the use of technology. As part of this debate, we heard stories of people committed to their faith and church, but could not attend her church. Some people lived far away from the church they worship at, but still contribute to the live of their church. Some people have sensory needs that mean church may not always be accessible to them. Some people may just prefer to attend online, or watch it later in the day.
What matters to these people is not the building itself, but participating in life together. We are a community, first and foremost, and all should be included in it. I hope as we continue to grow our online community that we might find our church to be more than just a building, or a livestream, but rather our own community. In particular, I found the opportunity to meet our other Synod representatives from the Southern Gold Coast region to be an opportunity for greater collaboration. 
Secondly, our church, or Synod, does not operate in a vacuum. At times, it can feel as if the four walls of Churchie’s impressive halls can be where debate can live and die. As if that weekend, we can take a stand on certain issues, only for them to fade into the background until the next Synod.
This Synod, we gave a formal apology to LGBTIQA+ people. The full text of the motion can be found here. This is an important step, and one that the Synod did not take lightly. As the Archbishop noted in his address, “an apology is a commitment to change, and there is more work to be done as we think through what practical actions we might undertake as we live into the apology”.
For that weekend, it can feel like the decisions and statements we make will never leave that building, or will never make a difference. We can feel shut away from the ‘real’ world. After this Synod, I hope to have stepped out of those halls with a greater appreciation that we cannot be a church shut away in a building.