At the forthcoming AGM, we will be electing a new Churchwarden, two new Council members and four new Archdeaconry Synod representatives. To give an idea of what these roles involve, a number of previous and current post holders have taken the time to share their reflections, having been asked the following five questions;
- What did you expect?
- What was the reality?
- What were the biggest challenges?
- What were the highlights?
- What advice would you give to somebody considering taking on an elected role?
Today’s reflections come from Miriam Keller who, apart from many years as organiser of the St Andrew’s Circle and running the bazaar, has served as secretary to the council and Archdeaconry Synod representative for 25 years.
Miriam will be stepping down at the AGM and it’s fair to say that she will be greatly missed, both from St Andrew’s Council and the Archdeaconry Synod!
What to expect
In 1990 a then-member of the Archdeaconry Synod at Zurich asked if I was willing to be nominated as an archdeaconry synod representative. In her words, it was twice a year and “We have a jolly day out. We all meet on the train for breakfast and travel to wherever synod is being held.” This could be anywhere in Switzerland where there was an Anglican church, maybe Geneva, Montreux, Berne. The trains were slower in those days, so even for a meeting in Berne, there was time for breakfast on the way. I really didn’t know much about the diocese or the archdeaconry or synod at that time, but I thought “Why not?” and let myself be elected. Apart from the jolly day, I had no expectations.
It takes time to see how the Church of England and the archdeaconry works. After a year or so, Peter Hawker, who was archdeacon at that time, asked me to be synod secretary, a job which I have now done for 25 years. I was automatically a member of the church council and for a long period of that time, also council secretary. So I was involved in both the chaplaincy and the archdeaconry and became familiar with all the on-going church business. It is a learning process about a complex organisation and especially at the beginning you are sometimes floundering in the dark. Incidentally, the breakfast part soon came to an end as the SBB increased the price and most of us preferred to have our toast and marmalade at home.
For synod members the challenges are what you make of being a member of the archdeaconry – regular attendance, taking an interest in what is being discussed and supporting projects which are handed down to the chaplaincies to be implemented. You can also initiate discussion and action on any controversial church-related matter which for you is important. As secretary, knowing everyone, keeping tabs on all the administrative work and maintaining contact with the archdeacon and other members of the committee is important.
For me personally, I do in any case enjoy administrative work and it has been a pleasure during all the years as secretary to get to know people from other chaplaincies and see how the diocese and the archdeaconry have developed to meet current needs.
If you are interested in the wider workings of the Anglican Church and some of the issues with which it is confronted, give being a synod representative a try. Every synod covers Swiss archdeaconry matters and we always try to have a speaker from the diocese or from Britain who speaks on aspects of our church life, whether it be safeguarding or missionary work or the diocesan finances.
Watch out for further posts in this series, to include reflections from Vicky Atchison, Vivian Nind and Nick Leaver, who between them have covered all of the roles listed above!