|Synod Assembly in the
Time of COVID
West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod
The COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to church
life, changes to Synod Assembly among them. Synod Assembly
2020 was canceled. Synod Assembly 2021 was delayed because
of a COVID-19 spike, finally being held in October 2021.
Planning for Synod Assembly 2021
Synod Assembly 2021 posed the greatest challenge ever
faced by this synod in planning and holding an assembly.
Initial plans for the Synod Assembly 2021 were laid out by
SAPComm and accepted in principal by Synod Council at its
October 2020 meeting. At the time, both risk mitigation
and pandemic psychology were forefront in the Synod
Council's thinking. The following assumptions drove
With these assumptions, the following planning goals were
Changes to the Plan
SAPComm, as it monitored the situation, concluded that an
open-air assembly, social distancing, and mandatory
masking were no longer necessary but, thinking it prudent
to maintain flexibility for response to possible variants
and new waves of the coronavirus, chose to retain some of
the planning parameters. Synod Council reviewed SAPComm's
work, settling on some details and leaving others to the
committee for further work.
Executing the Plan
The Mon County 4H Center at Mylan Park
in the greater Morgantown was selected as the venue. It
met the criteria for distance and also offered easy access
from I-79 (click here for
Google map). It provided a sizeable open-air
pavilion with a large enclosed space should it be needed.
It also offered easy and relative quick access to numerous
dining and lodging options. That it proved inexpensive and
the staff very accommodating were added benefits.
Uncertainty necessitated a new communications channel.
While a last-minute cancellation or upgrade in COVID-19
precautions could be communicated through our usual means
(the synod website, Facebook, and The Bishop's
Roadshow), a dedicated email list with automatic
enrollment as part of assembly registration was created.
For rapid notification, text messaging (SMS) was added to
the synod's communication resources and provided as an
option for registrants (click here for more info).
Synod Council reserved the right to postpone or cancel
the Synod Assembly in response to a COVID-19 outbreak. At
the same time, it was recognized that federal, state,
local health department, or venue response to an outbreak
could preclude gathering as planned.
The Synod Assembly was designed to be held over two
non-consecutive days with two meetings on the first day
and an adjourned meeting the following month. The primary
concern was the number of ballots that might be required
for the election of a bishop. With the requirement for
distribution of CVs after the second ballot, Q&A after
the third, and teaching time after the fourth, it was
deemed impossible to conduct more than the first and
second ballot on the first day of the assembly (without
working well into the night). If the election were
completed in the first two ballots, and the assembly's
other work was done (or the assembly ordered it), the
assembly could adjourn sine die, eliminating the
second day. If not, the assembly would adjourn to a future
time and place, and the intervening weeks would provide
additional time for various election procedures (and any
other assembly work that might be needed).
An admittedly draconian approach to the agenda was taken.
Apart from the report of the vice president, only those
items required by the governing documents of the synod and
the parliamentary authority were included on the agenda.
Given that our various affiliated agencies and
institutions would not have planned time at the podium,
compensatory features were added to the reporting and
An extended lunch was included in the program to allow
attendees to leave the site to dine.
A short mass was held after the Synod Assembly adjourned.
The mass had to be held because of a bylaw.
Synod Assembly wrapped up in one day. While not a perfect
assembly—what assembly is ever perfect?—feedback was
generally positive. Weather forced the assembly inside,
but the space proved adequate for social distancing.
As planning for Synod Assembly 2022 began, Synod Council
was of the opinion that the same site and pattern should
be used. Synod Council, in its 9 April 2022 meeting,
determined that Synod Assembly 2022's COVID mitigation
policy would be whatever the standard was according to the
CDC, WV State, and Mon County Health Department, and,
where there was conflict among them, the higher standard
would prevail. No decision was made about on-going COVID
Synod Assembly 2022 was greeted with excellent weather.
The assembly met in the outdoor pavilion (picture at
right). Several expressed particular approval of the
open-air venue. Synod Council deemed it reasonable to
attempt replication for 2023 (though not without debate).
Synod Assembly 2023 was once again inside because of
weather. Although it began as a beautiful day, the
forecast for the afternoon was ominous and proved
accurate. The agenda was again proposed with limits to
only the required reports and business (with the exception
of the reports of the vice president and the churchwide
representative as had been done with Synod Assembly 2022).
A motion from the floor, however, successfully amended the
proposal to include 30 minutes for reports from select
agencies and institutions.
As we prepare for Synod Assembly 2024, we look forward to meeting again in a one-day format (with option for an adjourned meeting) at the Mon County 4H Center.
Having reviewed past orders by Synod Council (and having no superseding orders from the Synod Assembly), the following has been determined:
As always, Synod Assembly planners will monitor
conditions and announce any changes in safety measures
ordered by civil authorities.
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This page was last updated 20 January 2024