Diocesan Clergy Retreat and Synod 2017

Synod2017A Re-cap of the
Diocesan Clergy Retreat and Synod

by Dr. Sharon Pullen

Even in the mild and temperate climate of the Carolinas, more than one synod has been threatened by extreme weather events from ice storms to hurricanes. But fair weather prevailed all around the diocese in March as clergy and delegates representing 27 churches gathered in Raleigh, N.C. for the Fifth Annual Synod of The Diocese of the Carolinas.

The four previous synods were hosted by St. Andrews in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. This year, however, Holy Trinity Church in downtown Raleigh provided a respite for St. Andrews by graciously welcoming and accommodating those attending the retreat and synod.

Prior to the synod, 47 clergy along with 21 spouses gathered for the annual clergy retreat. At a relaxed but elegant dinner on Thursday evening, clergy from around the diocese were able to catch up and share news from their respective parishes.

At a workshop on Friday, the Rev. John Yates II, rector of The Falls Church Anglican near Washington, D.C., and his wife, author and speaker Susan Yates, spent the morning encouraging the group of clergy and spouses in their ministries and in their marriages. Drawing upon the experience and wisdom gained from nearly 50 years of marriage, parenting, and ministry, John and Susan emphasized the importance of open communication, forgiveness, praying and reading the Bible together, keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest, setting aside time as a couple as well as time as a family, and finding mature friends and family who will commit to ongoing prayer support.

Celeste Minns was one of the clergy spouses who attended the retreat. She and her husband, the Rev. Jon Minns, rector of Church of the Holy Cross in North Raleigh, have four children and have been in full-time ministry for seven years. Celeste said she laughed with relief to hear some of the funny stories from the Yates’ early years and is reassured to know she is not alone in the typical struggles of ministry family life. “John and Susan are a living testimony that couples can not only survive but thrive after decades of marriage, ministry, and raising a family.”

The Diocesan Synod convened on Friday evening with a Service of Holy Communion. The Rev. John Yates III, rector of Holy Trinity Church, shared a message on persecution and deception in the last days. Christians in the West suffer “soft” persecution, which often takes the form of accusations of intolerance and discrimination. Our suffering is minor in comparison to that of our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world, but it is nonetheless real and makes us susceptible to false teaching. We are called to stand firm and stay on course by daily turning to God’s Word.

Following the opening worship, dinner was served in the courtyard at Holy Trinity. In true North Carolina spirit, a meal featuring southern fried chicken and barbeque was enjoyed by all while thoughtfully placed projection screens allowed basketball fans to linger at the dinner tables and enjoy fellowship without fear of missing the ACC tournament.

The first Saturday session opened with an informal address by Bishop Steve Wood reviewing the highlights of this past year in our diocese. He introduced Suffragan Bishop David Bryan and Assisting Bishop Thaddeus Barnum and expressed his deep gratitude to both men for their humility and willingness to work through the challenges of shared leadership while remaining fully committed to moving the church forward. Bishop Wood also expressed joy over being part of a diocese in which the leaders pray for each other and cheer each other on. “This is what I imagined as the church, not what I was ordained into as a deacon.”

Diocesan Administrator Maddy Donaldson presented an overview of the current financial report.

Bishop Thaddeus Barnum, in an inspiring teaching on the Person of the Holy Spirit, challenged his audience to consider why it is that we as a diocese are stuck when it comes to mission. One explanation could be our single-minded focus on how to bring people into the church, though Jesus calls us to take the Gospel out to the world. Another cause of our stagnation may the distinction we make between clergy and laity. Whereas a few are ordained into the clergy, we all belong to the priesthood of believers. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to all believers – men, women, and children — to empower them and equip them to take the Gospel out. Please take time to listen to Bishop Barnum’s teaching on the Diocese of the Carolinas website.

The Rev. Winfield Bevins, canon for church planting for the diocese, opened the second session of the synod with a report on Kardia church planting and remissioning initiative. For a detailed update on Kardia, see Winfield’s article in this edition of Carolinas Currently.

Luke Rasmussen and his team from Christ the Redeemer gave an update on their church in the Clemson University area. They expressed their excitement about seeing the fruit of God’s hand on their growing ministry. They are in the process of purchasing 23 acres in Pendleton, S.C., giving them the opportunity to have a permanent presence in the community. For more information about Christ the Redeemer and their land campaign, please visit the church website

Bishop David Bryan brought the synod to a close as he urged clergy and lay leaders not to lose sight of the beauty that surrounds us every day in the people of God who make up our church communities. We can see evidence of the Spirit of God working among His people, building the Kingdom right in our midst, and empowering us to live according to His will. Bishop Bryan’s affirming message can be found on the Diocese of the Carolinas website.

The annual clergy retreat and diocesan synod are excellent opportunities for refreshment, encouragement, and networking with other leaders in our diocese. For the next few years, these events will be held in March, usually a safe month for weather in the Carolinas.

Mark your calendars and make plans to attend.

2018    March 1-3       All Saints Church, Charlotte, N.C.

2019    March 14-16   Cathedral Church of the Apostles, Columbia, S.C.

2020    March 5-7       All Saints Church, Pawleys Island, S.C.

Sharon Pullen is a member of Church of the Holy Cross in North Raleigh.