Friday, 27 November 2009

All in the Family -- Lay Delegate to Synod

I recently attended the 135th Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara, as a Lay Delegate representing my church, St. Luke’s, in Burlington.

The word “synod” is defined as “a local or special ecclesiastical council, esp. of a diocese, formally convened to discuss ecclesiastical affairs.” The word is derived from the Latin synodus, from the Greek sunodos, syn + hodos, “way” or “course”. The synod is called together by the bishop of the diocese and the attendees are the clergy from the diocese along with representatives from the laity, elected by the Parish.

The 135th Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara took place November 20th and 21st at the Hamilton Convention Centre. This was my first experience representing my church as a lay delegate to Synod and I found it both educational and uplifting. It set me thinking about my family and the fact that I wasn’t the first of them to attend Synod as a lay delegate. In fact at least two of my uncles had done the same and so I set out to find out what I could about their experiences as lay delegates.

The Smedmores and Kingston Parish Church
My Smedmore family had a strong connection to the Kingston Parish Church. The state church, formally known as the Parish Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, is believed to have been built some time before 1699, the date of the oldest tomb in the church today. It is located south of the Parade, in the heart of Kingston.

The original church was destroyed in the earthquake of 1907. Here is how it looked before the earthquake:

The new church was constructed in 1911, as closely as possible on the foundations of the previous church, as a replica of the former church except for the original tower. Instead a new clock tower was erected as a memorial to the soldiers who died in the First World War.

My Smedmore family, who lived at 49 Beeston Street north of the Parade, all attended Kingston Parish Church and whenever I visited them I would go with there them. I was fascinated by the fact that many early burials had actually taken place inside the church, and one could walk over the tombstones with their inscriptions while going up the nave. I particularly remember seeing the tomb of Admiral John Benbow, near the High Altar.

Benbow had been stationed at Port Royal as commander of the King’s Ships in the West Indies in 1697, and again in 1702. During the War of the Spanish Succession he fought against the French under Admiral Du Casse, was wounded and as a result died two months later of his wounds and was buried in the parish church.

Here is a photo of the interior of Kingston Parish Church, showing the High Altar.

My Smedmore Uncles

But back to Synod and my uncles. I was vaguely aware that my uncle Julian had been a Synod delegate, but what about the others? I don’t know if the eldest of the boys, my uncle Victor, who was killed in the First World War, had taken part in Synod. I never heard that my uncle Owen had been a lay delegate. This might be because he was somewhat retiring in nature. He stammered rather badly and this may have been a drawback. That left my uncles Rodney, Lucius and Julian, and so I did a search in the Jamaica Gleaner online to see what I could find out about them.


Rodney definitely was elected as a lay delegate to synod in the parish of Trelawny where he worked as a sugar technologist. He was present at the Synod at St. George’s Hall, Kingston, on February 12, 1947. This Synod was particularly significant as it saw the election of Canon Percival William Gibson as Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, the first Jamaican, and a black Jamaican at that, to be elevated to the bishopric. The article in the Gleaner reports that R. D. Smedmore was one of the delegates appointed to a committee to prepare the voting papers. I know that at the time Rodney was living in Trelawny so he would have been representing his home church, which was most likely St. Michael’s Church in Clarks Town.


My uncle Lucius was never, as far as can see, a lay delegate, but he was very much involved in the life of the Parish Church, serving as Secretary and Treasurer. The one member of the family who served the longest as a lay delegate was the youngest, Julian.


I found several entries in the Gleaner which referred to Julian’s involvement as a lay delegate on behalf of the Parish Church. He was very active in the church and made sure everyone knew it!

So, I came to the conclusion that this was indeed all in the family. Mind you, I’ve come to this important duty somewhat late in life, but I rather think that if my Smedmore family knew of it they would probably be proud and perhaps a bit surprised as in their time there were probably no women in Jamaica elected as lay delegates to synod. In fact, it was not until 1994 that women were ordained as deacons, and only in 1997 were they ordained to the priesthood.


Nixon is in hell said...

Fascinating; but what exactly is expected of a Lay Delegate?

Dorothy Kew said...

An interesting question! As I said in the post, lay delegates are members of parish council and so represent their particular parish. They attend Synod along with the clergy for the parish, and can vote on all matters that come before Synod, which may include divisive issues, such as the blessing of same sex couples, as well as such mundane matters as the annual diocesan budget. However, they do not vote for any clergy representative to General Synod. There, clergy delegates vote for clergy nominees, and lay delegates vote for lay nominees. Hope that helps!

patricia said...

Of course your family would have been proud! (Though I do wonder about Julian...would he, perhaps, have been a tad jealous? And I can't help but wonder if he would have had a hard time wrapping his head around the idea of women being more involved in the Anglican Church).

On a totally different note, what kind of crazy photo has Guy used for his icon?? Sheesh.

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
My uncle Victor