Thank You to ‘The Happy Diocese’

by Gerry Lynch last modified 18 Jun, 2015 01:22 PM

Rob Key’s closing remarks at his final Synod meeting as Diocesan Lay Chair

Thank You to ‘The Happy Diocese’

Rob Key receiving his Aldhelm Cross for outstanding service to the Diocese from Bishop Nicholas

Robert Key made the following remarks at the end of his final meeting as Lay Chair of Salisbury Diocesan Synod in June 2015. He was Lay Chair for 4 years and a Diocesan Synod member for 10. He was MP for Salisbury for 27 years and was deeply involved in ecclesiastical affairs and supportive of the Church of England and the Church Universal in parliament.

I’m standing down for the best of reasons. At three-score years and ten I’m aware of my own mortality and the need for young  blood and a fresh mind. There’s also a lot more I want to do.

Our Diocese is strong, focussed, clear about the values we live by, aware of our faults, sensitive to our difficulties, keen to move forwards, determined to make a difference, fearless for our faith, prepared to take risks for Christ and confident for the future.

I could not have said that ten years ago – nor even five.

So, what has changed? For a start we have a lot of new blood in the Diocese from the Episcopal team and Archdeacons, to the Board of Education and right across our clergy and laity.

Salisbury is ‘the happy Diocese’. In Bishop Nicholas, God sent us what we asked for. Hallelujah!

It is so good that our mother church, our Cathedral, is so full of life, led by our inspiring Dean, June.

We do not have all the answers, but parish by parish, deanery by deanery, and family by family and Christian by Christian, we are better equipped than we have ever been, spiritually, practically and financially, to build Christ’s kingdom on earth. 

We delude ourselves if we think there was ever a Golden Age in the life of the Church in England when the Churches were full – for the right reasons – and Bishops and Archdeacons and PCC Treasurers had an easy life. So let’s stop looking over our shoulders at the past.

We have a huge agenda for change – let us welcome it. I would like to make just three observations.

First – cherish our Bishops, Priests and Deacons – and our Lay leaders. The inherited historical structure and geography of the Diocese has scarcely changed in two hundred years. But the location, numbers and needs of the people has changed hugely. As long as we decline to change our structures to meet new and growing needs, the challenges and stress for our smaller body of clergy will inevitably rise.

So we need to address urgently the need to support our clergy and their spouses and families more than we do now.

Secondly, we must learn to make far greater and better use of our laity. At Parish level, lay volunteers running PCCs and the host of activities that are the Church in action feel increasingly put-upon as congregations contract and demands rise. We are not good at seeking new recruits – either because we don’t know newcomers to communities – or because we don’t ask – or both. We need to encourage parishes and deaneries to undertake regular skills audits – and then invite people to join us.

Thirdly, we should measure the right things – and we must measure numbers in church to determine Parish Share. But shrinking congregations do not signify the death of Christianity. What matters, and is usually unaccounted, is what individual Christians are doing in the communities served by the Established Church in pursuit of our national duty and calling.

Every week, 42,000 people, predominantly Christians, across the UK, volunteer in 1200 outlets run by 430 food banks. It is more than food. It is social enterprise – training in skills, fundraising in shops, up-cycling furniture and goods, provision of services with partners including Citizens Advice, Credit Unions, Age Concern, Housing providers, legal services, energy companies helping tackle fuel poverty and many more. This is all about Matthew 25, and managing 1000% growth in six years. That is a challenge I face as a trustee of the Trussell Trust.

It is Street Pastors, teachers, child-minders, carers, supermarket staff – in fact, Christians are everywhere, every day, living out their faith in their lives, ministering by example.

I was born into the Church of England and I will die in the Church of England. I spoke up for the Church in all my 27 years in Parliament, attending Church Commissioners Questions and serving on the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament.  The Church of England is in good heart. Archbishop Justin is outstanding. Please do not delay or derail the reforms and innovations he is leading.

Our way today builds on the sure foundations of scripture, tradition and reason. We preach the Gospel afresh to each new generation. We witness and work in every parish in the land – fulfilling our duty as the Church by Law Established.

Thank you for the opportunities you have given to me, to serve the Church I love in the Diocese and the nation. I have been blessed indeed.

At the magnificent Magna Carta Eucharist in our Cathedral last Sunday, Bishop Nicholas preached an outstanding sermon. I end as he did with these words:

So we pray,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
From the laziness that is content with half-truth,
From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth
O God of Truth, deliver us. Amen.

 

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