Future Focused Synod

by Gerry Lynch last modified 20 Feb, 2018 01:49 PM

Diocesan Synod focused on children and young people and social justice at its February meeting

Young people from the youth group at Christ Church, Creekmoor, stole the show at a meeting of Diocesan synod focused on young people’s issues and social justice.

See photos on Flickr (no sign in required) and Facebook.

As well as hearing from them on why they decided to support refugees who have fled to this country, Synod heard from Bournemouth-based resettlement charity ICN and the Children’s Society.

Other items on the agenda were an important presentation on the 2019 Budget and on the link with the Diocese of Évreux in Normandy.

After opening worship, on the feast of the Ugandan Anglican Bishop Janani Luwum, martyred by Idi Amin in 1977, Bishop Nicholas gave his Presidential Address.

Read Bishop Nicholas’ Presidential Address here.

Diocesan Synod 18.02 Photo 1.jpgThis would be the last Diocesan Synod for the Rt Revd Edward Condry, the Bishop of Ramsbury, and the Ven Paul Taylor, Archdeacon of Sherborne. Both would be retiring later this spring. A welcome was extended to Brother Clark Berge SSF, the new Guardian of Hilfield Friary.

Bishop Nicholas noted that the Diocese of Salisbury has more local groups supporting the work of the Children’s Society than any other, hence it was particularly appropriate they were presenting at Synod. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Christingle service held to support the work of the Children’s Society.

Poverty restricts people’s choices leaving them with impaired choices; the rising cost of living leaves too many behind. The gap in life expectancy between the poorest and richest communities in England has risen since 2001.

Inter-generational fairness is also becoming a serious issue: as part of his work as a Lord Spiritual, the Bishop has been asked to join the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Future Generations.

General Synod earlier this month heard an extremely powerful presentation on the state of safety in the Church of England. 3,300 allegations are currently being investigated. Acknowledging where we have committed wrong and committing to move forward renews hope.

A new primate has been elected in South Sudan, the Rt Revd Justin Badi Arama, currently Bishop of Maridi. There is a wonderful account of the election on the Diocesan website by Robert Hayward from Sherborne, who attended. It was a delight to welcome three bishops from South Sudan to Salisbury last week.

The next Lambeth Conference will take place in 2020. We need to start preparing to host visiting bishops now.

Business moved on to the session on children and young people in society, chaired by Diocesan Synod’s Lay Chair, Gillian Clarke from Wimborne Deanery.

Diocesan Synod 18.02 Photo 2.jpgAl Aynsley-Green, an internationally renowned expert on children’s issues and former Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education, presented on behalf of The Children’s Society why the nurture of children and young people should be the business of everyone in the Diocese.

The Society’s 2008 Good Childhood Report, unique internationally, painted a challenging picture of the state of childhood in the UK, and things have got worse over the past ten years. Children need love, the one word that should make Christians distinctive. Children also need managed risk; childhood has become more constrained. The African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ should challenge us to build communities.

Phil Raws, the Society’s Senior Researcher, pointed out, with reference to a quote by Socrates, that demonisation of the young is nothing new. Others might recall the 1960s hysteria about mods and rockers. In recent times, however, there has been a shift to more sympathetic coverage.

There has been a huge increase in mental health problems among young people, although since the 1990s crime, suicide, pregnancy and drug and alcohol use have all fallen among teenagers. Unlike many other problems, poor mental health among the young is as prevalent among affluent communities as poorer ones.

Jim Davis, the Society’s Head of Engagement, then got Synod members on their feet to discuss the challenges facing young people and how the Church might understand them better and create communities that nurture. Gill Ford, the Society’s regional Head of Engagement, thanked Synod members for the strong support in the Diocese.

Diocesan Synod 18.02 Photo 3.jpgThe agenda then moved on to the Évreux Link, which has united us with a Roman Catholic Diocese in Normandy for over thirty years. They Dioceses are similar places socially, with a number of large towns but a high proportion of the population in small villages, and in ecclesiastical terms, both have many of what would be called multi-parish benefices in the Church of England.

The Archdeacon of Dorset, the Ven Antony MacRow-Wood, was joined by the Revd Susan Pattle of Wimborne Deanery and Jill Minchin of Dorchester Deanery as they presented on their recent visit to Évreux, which had a social justice theme, where there is much of benefit to be learned from one another. One advantage we have is that we have many more priests; the burden of parish ministry on Roman Catholic clergy is enormous.

Colin Brady, the Diocese’s Social Justice Programme Manager, then addressed Synod on wider social justice issues. Blandford Forum Parish Church was congratulated on its Community Kitchen, operating since last year and open to anyone who wants to come; this has been a huge success in serving some people in genuine need and also building links between the church and the whole community.

Access to financial services for those who do not use the internet is becoming an issue in our smaller towns. The last bank branches have closed in Wilton, Sturminster Newton and Bradford on Avon.

The Diocese was challenged to see if it could become the first Eco Diocese as accredited by A Rocha’s Eco Church award scheme, after the success of a growing number of parishes in that programme. We are already much of the way there.

Diocesan Synod 18.02 Photo 4.jpgAfter the lunchtime break, and under the chair of Canon Thomas Woodhouse, Chair of the House of Clergy, Irwin Buchanan of the International Care Network, which helps refugees in Dorset resettle successfully, addressed Synod. There are around 2-3,000 refugees in Dorset, mostly in the Greater Bournemouth/Poole area, and mostly Iranians, Kurds, Afghans and Syrians. Approximately 30 are unaccompanied minors, mainly males aged 16-19. ICN helps by giving advice and support with matters like learning English, accommodation, jobs and benefits.

Twelve vulnerable Syrian refugee families have now been settled in Dorset, and rather more in Wiltshire. They were accepted due to a range of challenges, including autistic children and victims of torture in the family.

The war in Syria has killed 470,000, of whom 55,000 were children; injured 2 million and left 4 million as refugees, from a pre-War population of 23 million.

Part of what motivated him, said Irwin, was the vision in Revelation 7:9 of heaven filled with people of every tribe and nation and language.

The young people of Christ Church, Creekmoor in Poole, then gave a presentation on what had motivated them to make refugees a key part of their personal discipleship. They showed a powerful video which had inspired them to raise awareness. Their commitment to their Christian faith and passion for living it out was the high point of the day.

Jane Curtis, Vicar of Corfe Mullen, welcomed members of Synod to her church at the first Synod there since she was instituted.

Diocesan Synod 18.02 Photo 5.jpgFinance was the final topic on the agenda, with the Archdeacon of Dorset again presenting. The final outturn for 2017 was a deficit of £8,000 on a budget of close to £13,000,000, especially positive as the budget contained an £85,000 cost challenge.

The share collection rate remains one of the highest in the Church of England at 97.8%. A stellar year by the property department on fees for work for external organisations helped a lot.

An overspend of £217,000 on clergy stipends was a result of fewer and shorter vacancies. While not exactly a negative, it highlights the continuing challenge of meeting our financial obligations, especially as this is forecast to continue in 2018. An increased number of ordinands, and therefore of future curates, also means added costs in years to come.

Total expenditure for 2019 has been budgeted at £13.2 million.

Resourcing safeguarding is leading to higher expenditure; this is one way in which we are paying for past mistakes. Another is expenditure, for the next 7-8 years, to cover a clergy pension deficit. A gradually declining paying membership is also increasing the burden per capita – although we are working on reversing this!

The increased focus on vocations is necessary – 35% of serving clergy are due to retire over the next decade – and is showing fruit with an increase in those exploring ordination and of those beginning training.

The Diocesan Board of Education also needs increased funds. Changes in government policy, and the stripping of the capacity of Local Education Authorities, means that we are in danger of losing church schools if we do not have the capacity to help schools improve.

Despite this, share assessment per contributing worshipper in the Diocese remains the fourth lowest in the Church of England.

Real terms share in the Diocese has fallen since 2004, total inflation has been 36% or 46% since then depending on the measure. Share has risen by only 22% over the same period. Even considering the decline in fairer membership from 28,000 to 25,500 over the same period, that means share has declined by around 10% per head over the past 15 years.

Synod then spent some time discussing options for future financial strategy before Synod closed just before 3 p.m.

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