ACR JournalMinistry

The View from the Pew – Janet Austin

Ms Janet Austin served on synod for many years as a lay representative for Lane Cove.

  1. Why do you serve on the synod?

I was invited to consider being a Synod Rep by one of the sitting members who was resigning her position. She believed it was an important role. I was willing to put my name forward at the AGM and to represent God’s people across the various congregations in the parish if selected. It was a privilege to gain a wider perspective on gospel ministryacross the different regions which make up the Dioceseof Sydney. We are all involved in God’s mission!

  1. What role do you see lay people having in this ministry? (i.e., How do you believe this ministry serves the Kingdom?)

Parishes are represented in the synod by the Senior Minister and two lay people nominated by the congregation(s). Lay people significantly outnumber members of the clergy and bring wide experience and wisdom to bear on matters which are discussed. Important debates are often long and tortuous, but all sides get a fair hearing. I was always grateful for the insights and perspectives brought by lay people.

  1. Do you need a specific skillset to serve as a lay representative? (i.e., Do you need formal theological or legal training to be useful?)

Those ordained will have theological training and there are many lawyers about in the synod but a wide variety of other work and professional experience can be found amongst God’s people as well. An understanding of ‘parliamentary procedure’ is helpful so that you can make sense of the procedures of synod business. You need to listen carefully and be prepared to read the background material for important debates where voting is required.

  1. Do you have any lessons for new lay representatives?

It is helpful to talk to others who have had this role before you. As mentioned, gain an understanding of ‘parliamentary procedure’ as thisforms the basis of synod procedure. Ask the church to pray for you as you represent them in this forum. Read the diocesan magazine Southern Cross to be aware of current issues across the diocese.

  1. How can clergy help foster a desire and vision for lay folk to get involved in governance issues (i.e., Parish Council, Wardens, Synod Reps)?

Clergy need to help members of their congregations understand a little more about the leadership and structure of the Anglican Church, because the debates and resolutions of the synod are about matters that affect them. Good governance of the wider Anglican Church supports and enables gospel ministry to flourish at the local level of the parish.