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All we need for the future

by Michael Ford last modified 17 Sep, 2021 10:27 PM

‘May we be brave, humble, courageous, generous disciples’: that was the message from Bishop Karen as she addressed a new gathering of representatives from across the Diocese.

All we need for the future

Bishop Karen speaks at Synod

Read the text here.

Diocesan Synod gathered for a face-to-face at St Francis’ Church in Salisbury on Wednesday evening (15th September), with 30% of members as newcomers. Since first lockdown, previous sessions had been held on Zoom.

Twitter coverage via #dosalsynodFacebook coverage via #dosalsynod.

Making her first Presidential Address as Acting Bishop of Salisbury, at the start of a new three-year cycle of Synod, thanked those attending for their hard work in their parishes, Bishop Karen said:

“These have been unprecedented times for the Church, and I and others have been very aware of the hard work, the adjustments and the care that has gone on locally to enable our worship to continue and our churches to be important parts of community life.

“It has been quite amazing to see, not just the dedication but the creativity everywhere from Marlborough to Lyme Regis, Alderholt to Westbury and everywhere in between. Thank you.  It is good to bring all of this together again, as Diocesan representatives and as Christians.”

Referring to Eucharist, or Holy Communion, with its elements of gathering together, breaking bread, pouring wine, and sharing, as Jesus did with his disciples, she said:

“We all have something to bring because we already have been given gifts by God. It’s sometimes just own reluctance, or reticence or self-reliance which stops us from freely offering what we have.

“May we be a Diocese of brave disciples, willing to not hold anything back.”

Speaking of Synod members’ role in making decisions and taking them back to their parishes to be put into practice at local level, Bishop Karen said:

“All of us have a part to play in the work of the Diocese as Synod members, as active participants bearing witness to what God is doing across the Diocese where you go back too, as well as bringing what God is doing locally as we gather together. And together God takes us for this time, and for God’s purposes to work through this body.

“It’s going to be a challenging time, as we work together to solve some of the current problems we face about finance, and deployment, about good stewardship and as we pray together for a new Diocesan bishop.”

Taking a positive approach was also a key theme of Bishop Karen’s address, as was storytelling, continuing a key part of our Renewing Hope: Pray Serve Grow vision as a Diocese - that of sharing stories of what or who has renewed our hope recently. She said:

“Offering ourselves is also about encouragement as we share what God is doing in our midst, together and apart and have our faith restored and increased hearing faith stories from other parts of the Diocese.

“That’s when the blessing happens. Once we come offering what we have, and for some it will be less than others, if we come openly and honestly, then God promises to take it and bless it.

“May we be a Diocese of humble disciples, willing to be blessed and to bless others.”

All we need for the future- a 'yes' vote at Synod

Facing the realities of parish life head-on and pulling no punches, Bishop Karen called for courageous hope, saying:

“Often in church life it isn’t until we look around and see significantly fewer people in attendance that we begin to ask questions about outreach and mission, or it isn’t until we cannot pay our bills or parish share that we begin to ask questions about giving, or until we feel squeezed that we consider our own work-life balance.”

Injecting a note of compassion for those currently struggling and in need of support, and emphasising the ‘Pray’ part of Renewing Hope: Pray Serve Grow, Bishop Karen added:

“It is not until we feel at a loss, we feel helpless, that we allow God to come in and meet with us. It is often when we get to our wits’ end that we fall on our knees and pray.

“May we be a Diocese of courageous disciples willing to make sacrifices and give away to others.

“And then the transformation can begin, the miracles can take place.”

During a Synod where one key contrast became clear – we are the fourth-highest diocese in the Church of England for attendance, but we rank thirty-sixth for giving against income – the Bishop assured the gathering:

“Our God is a God of abundance, we all have enough.”

And challenged her listeners to gather as Christians, to set aside their own ideas and plans and allow divine inspiration to direct them, because then, “so often what happens is beyond our wildest dreams.

“What potential there is in us therefore, tonight as God’s people, as we go from this meeting. What potential there is in our churches, our communities, for God’s transformation if we are willing to share.

“May we be a Diocese of generous disciples known for our extravagant giving and care.”

Concluding with thoughts on our direction of travel as a Diocese, and the qualities we will need for the future, Bishop Karen mentioned “Taken, blessed, broken and shared. Four simple but profound words” to bear in mind as we take up the challenge of living braver, simpler, more generous lives, being grateful for what we have, and sharing with others.

She added:

“There may be hard choices ahead of us, however with faith and trust in Christ who gave himself up for all, in the power of the Spirit… in the one who transforms it all… we can be sure that we will have all we need for the future.”

Read Bishop Karen’s introduction and full text here.

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