The Diocese of Ontario Synod Council held its first meeting of 2022 on Tuesday, January 25. Due to the Pandemic, meetings of Council continue to be online only.
The meeting was opened with a devotion lead by Reverend Trish Miller. The devotion used the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity as the theme.
Council received and accepted the draft Minutes of Synod 2021. These minutes will come to the next meeting of Synod (planned for 2023) for approval. The bishop provided a summary of discussions he had in post-Synod follow-up meetings in the Hub sites. He also discussed plans for a half day facilitated session with Synod Council to focus on accountability and communications for Synod Council representatives. This session was planned for February, but has been postponed due to the return to the Red Stage.
An update was presented on the work in finance to close the 2021 financial year and accounting. The Audit Committee has met and approved the audit plan from Wilkinson & Company, our diocesan Auditor. Meetings with finance staff and audit staff have also begun. The objective is to have Audited Consolidated Financial Statements presented to Synod Council at the March meeting.
The 2023 Budget Process was also presented and discussed by Council. There has been ongoing work on our systems and cyber security strategy, implementation and tools. The incidences of data breaches, malware, ransomware and other threats have expanded into the Not For Profit sector and have increased dramatically in the last year. The diocese and through it, our churches and individuals are heavily dependant on network, applications and cloud technology for a great deal of our activity. Communications (email, messaging, online meetings, website, social media, telephone), data and document storage (HR files, office files, legal documents, media library, Archives, etc), financial systems (payroll, payables, invoices/statements, PAG, banking, Investment Fund) and collaboration tools (Microsoft Teams) are all critical to our operation but are also all potentially vulnerable to attack. After discussing the risk and impact of potential cyber security issues, Council approved a recommendation and proposal for a contracted consultant to review our state/risks and to develop a strategy and implementation plan.
The committees and programs of the diocese that provide updates at Synod Council are now holding their first meetings of the new year. Archdeacon Varley provided status and updates for those groups (DOORS, Green Group, 3 Adelaide Steering Group). He also presented a brief update for the Worship Committee on their upcoming plans and work. After discussion under the agenda item for the Stewardship & Congregational Development Committee, there was agreement to develop a response to the challenge of clergy wellness. While this is a broad topic, the work at this point will focus on the impact and potential supports to respond to the Pandemic and how it has affected clergy. The Bishop suggested a joint effort between the Stewardship & Congregational Development Chair and the Co-chairs of Training & Development to scope the needs and develop potential responses. The Bishop and Ven Wayne Varley (Archdeacon of Ministry & Program) will work with the two committee leaders to begin this work.
The status of Real Estate activity was reviewed by Council. There is now a contract in place for the purchase of the former St Paul’s, Flinton. There is activity and work underway on the other properties that are available for sale. Council also heard an update on the transfer of a number of cemeteries to municipalities, the focus and changes being driven by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario and on the plans for a Cemetery Advisory Board in the diocese.
In response to the challenges of reducing the risk of COVID-19 in our church buildings, Synod Council was presented a proposal for a grant program in support of churches that wish to make an investment in ventilation, air filtration or air purification to address the threat of the aerosol spread COVID-19/Coronavirus. The concept and proposal has also been presented at the last two warden, treasurer and clergy calls for input. Council approved a recommended program which will provide a 50% grant (up to a maximum of $1000) per church for approved projects which improves ventilation, filtering or purification as part of a COVID-19 safety program/plan. This grant program will be funded by the Pandemic Support Fund generated by CEWS received for diocesan staff. The program will run from February thru July of this year. More information (including the application and process) to follow. It was noted that UV-C air purification is being installed in the diocesan center.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Diocese of Ontario Synod Council will be held on Tuesday February 22, 2022, at 6pm. The meeting is planned to be on-line only.