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Firsts all round at Synod

by Michael Ford last modified 13 Nov, 2018 03:38 PM

This November was a Diocesan Synod of “firsts”. Synod members were the first to hear that The Diocese of Salisbury had become Britain’s first Eco Diocese.

Firsts all round at Synod

Synod gathers at St Francis' Church, Salisbury

In making the announcement, Bishop Nicholas said:

“I am able to announce that we are the first of 42 dioceses to become an Eco Diocese. 70 parishes have registered for the scheme, 25 have got bronze awards, 5 silver and Hilfield Friary was the first in the country to receive gold. The care of God’s creation is a core part of our ministry and mission.
"The recent IPCC report on climate change and the WWF report on the destruction of biodiversity means the care of God’s earth is urgent. I hope that becoming an Eco Diocese will encourage us to do more and better and that other dioceses will also receive this award very soon”.

To read the full story, click here.

But becoming an Eco Diocese wasn’t the only first for this November Synod held at St Francis Church in Salisbury.

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Synod began with Bishop Nicholas welcoming new members to their first Synod, which was also the first of the new Triennium. He also welcomed back and thanked those who were returning for another term for their service.

Then in another first for Synod members were invited to take part in the Synod’s version of “Just a minute” meets “speed dating”; as Bishops, Archdeacons, laity and clergy, moved around from chair to chair having just one minute, introduce themselves to the person opposite, saying something about their parish and what hopes they had for this new Triennium.

Members moved on to meet someone else when Diocesan Secretary Lucinda Herklots rang the “Synod Bell”.
Lucinda commented that the bell had been used previously to call members into debates, but this seemed a far less formal and fun use.

After getting to know each other Bishop Nicholas told Synod that he would be spending some time sharing the stories of the Diocese and asked people to discuss three questions: What do you pray for? Whom do you serve? How will you grow?

In his talk, illustrated by pictures featuring churches and events from across the Diocese, the Bishop said Renewing Hope, Pray Serve, Grow was about turning a slight decline into growth, because even slight growth would make a world of difference.

He told Synod members that while the problems we face as a Diocese were the same as in the rest of the Church of England, we had some pockets of “pure hope”.

He reminded Synod that “We have to do the core business of prayer and worship well” and said that there “cannot be renewal without prayer”.

And that while the Diocese was in good shape, the percentage of giving per worshipper was low, leaving us 27th out of 42 Dioceses and this meant that the Diocese Board of Finance couldn’t maintain budget or increase them with inflation.

He suggested that Finance was as much about mission as money.

He also talked about the “DNA of Diocese” and said that while there are differences between us,” we belong together”.

He said while it may feel like “a dark age for the Church”, we need to hold on and grow for the future.

To read Bishop Nicholas’s speaking notes in full, click here.

Members were then asked for their thoughts:
Teresa Barsby, Chalke Valley Deanery, commented that she was encouraged that we have a positive outlook, and that the nub of everything we do should be evangelism.

Revd Jo Neary, Lyme Bay Deanery, asked Synod to remember that rural parishes like hers don’t feel they are well resourced in the parishes, and feel stretched.

Julia Taylor, Devizes Deanery: “My church has only just signed up for Eco Church, but I’m so impressed with Bishop’s enthusiasm, with his lead we can go further.”

Margaret Morrissey, Dorchester Deanery issued a plea, that we continue to say “we are doing very well” she said that there was nothing more distressing than to hear that we have to do more.
“It really lifts people higher to hear keep doing what you are doing, because you are doing very well”.

Revd Peter Breckwoldt, Wimborne Deanery commented that if churches are to grow, it will be through the children coming to faith. He asked the Bishop to “continue to encourage us”.

John Joy, Bradford Deanery, said he was struck by churches needing to work together.

The Revd Rhona Floate, Heytesbury Deanery, thanked the Bishop for being an encourager and was please we were sticking to a 10 year framework, but he said we needed to be “open as how it will develop over time”

The Bishop replied to the comments from members saying:
“We are on a journey, we are about hope, not optimism. What are we rooted in? We need to match resources against the task as best we can. This is about a Church who feels more confident about what it means to be a Christian today, I am grateful for the new Synod for taking up the task.”

Synod then had a presentation from the Diocesan Secretary on how the Diocese and Synod connected with wider society and the Church of England and the governance of the church.

Synod then shared stories of what had renewed their hope in the past few weeks.

Charles Hodgson, Dorchester Deanery told Synod that they have a very strong community church.

Eddie Upton, Sherborne Deanery said that his village related strongly to its community, holding lunches for 40 people

Sarah Musgrave Marlborough Deanery, said she had three new candidates for discernment.

Margaret Knight, Stonehenge Deanery told Synod that 13 children from our schools had been confirmed and that a further four adults were being confirmed at the cathedral today.

Bishop Karen then spoke to Synod about the Diocesan Strategic review saying this was a “continuation of a conversation.” She said when talking about finance we were moving from the vision we had discussed early today, to the reality of how we fund this.

She said Fairer Share figures show that new people are coming to church. The Diocese was extremely grateful for high level of share. But with a quarter of income in first month and slower giving towards the end of the year, it showed that some parishes were struggling.
Explaining that there would be an Interim review on Renewing Hope with an external reviewer, asking how it is impacting, she urged deaneries to look at this themselves first.
Deanery visits were announced for next year and in 2020.

Synod also heard that as well as the Fairer Share task group, led by the Archdeacon of Wiltshire, the Ven Sue Groom, next year the arrival of a new Diocesan Secretary, a new Bishop of Ramsbury and a new Archdeacon of Sherborne meant that they too would be asking questions.
Bishop Karen said that this was a conversation, that we want to be transparent, “because the Diocese is everyone in our churches, we are in this together”

There was a moment of light hearted humour when, Clarissa Reilly, Devises Deanery, asked for a Board of Finance workshop for dummies, she said asked Synod to look at her grey hair and said she had first asked this question as a brunette.

In the middle of the day, Synod shared a Eucharist.
Lay Chair Gillian Clarke said that this was at the heart of meeting and our life together which is why the Eucharist and the Bishop’s Presidential Address was central to the day’s Synod business.

For the Bishop’s Presidential Address, click here.

As part of the Eucharist Synod members were inaugurated by the Bishop and answered all the questions asked with the simple statement “with the help of God we will”.

Synod also received presentations from the Diocesan Board of Education and received their annual report. Read the Strategic Plan here. Members heard about “creating a safer church” receiving a report from the Safeguarding Management Group.

In his brief to Synod on the Church and the Environment, Colin Brady, the Diocesan Social Justice Programme Manager, told Synod more about the Eco Church award and the progress of the Diocese’s Churches in gaining their awards.

Also speaking for the first time at Synod was the new Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, the Very Revd Nicholas Papadopulos thanked Synod twice for welcoming him and told members that in the eight weeks he had been in role, the height of the Cathedral spire, the antiquity of the clock, and impregnability of the Magna Carta case had become global news.

He paid tribute to Dean June Osbourne for her leadership and Canon Ed Probert, who oversaw the vacancy.

He highlighted the year and recent news before asking Synod to receive Cathedral annual report. He said he couldn’t mention the report without reference to attack and recovery. He said at the heart of attack “was a devastating human tragedy” and he paid tribute to colleagues for their liturgical and pastoral response.

But he said as the attack happened the Cathedral was welcoming Les Colombes, artist Michael Pendry’s installation and that “it was wonderful to see that these doves escaped from Cathedral into City, in shop windows.” He said the dove was a symbol of peace and of reconciliation of God and humanity after the deluge. It brought hope for the future of peace and reconciliation.

Looking ahead, the Cathedral planned to repeat the hosting of the “Thy Kingdom Come” service in a collaboration with the Diocese that had been such a success last year and that Darkness to Light, the cathedral’s signature liturgy was being taken “out of the building into the close” with the light installations, testifying to the light of Christ into the world and hopefully bringing people into the city.

He said he was proud that the Cathedral was fulfilling the Gospel imperative to care for God’s creation and our vocation to be Bishop Nicholas’ church.

Members finished off the day by suggesting future topics for discussion at Synod. These included, looking at our Global vision as a Diocese, researching Demographic analysis of congregation – good work with 20/30s and putting the mental health of young people on the agenda and in answer to a question raised by Paul Boyd Lee, Lucinda Herklots told Synod that out of a possible 704 votes, only 60 cast their votes in the recent synod by elections.

Finally Bishop Nicholas reminded members that this would be Lucinda Herklots’ last Synod.

He thanked her on behalf of Synod for her service over the past 16 years and said:
“Lucinda is an engineer by background and her role here has been to make the diocese join up and she does that splendidly”.

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