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Home Who's who Bishops The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam. Sermons, articles, and speeches Presidential Address - February Synod 2018

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Presidential Address - February Synod 2018

by glynch — last modified 20 Feb, 2018 10:18 AM

Bishop Nicholas gave the Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod on 17 February 2018 at St Nicholas’, Corfe Mullen

Diocesan Synod 18.02 Photo 1.jpgWe meet near the beginning of Lent on the day the Church remembers Archbishop Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda and a martyr murdered in 1977. A friend recently told me about a church growth conference.  One of the most knowledgeable speakers was asked, what is the single most effective stimulant to church growth?  Without missing a beat he replied, “Martyrdom”. 

A martyr is a witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ, someone who gave their life for what they believe; so the world knows it really matters.  In our post-truth world of alternative facts, where other people are said to matter less than me, it has become acceptable to put self-first. So costly Christian life has never been more important.  It is the Christian witness that truth, love, justice, goodness matter because they set us free.  Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. 

As a diocese we have committed to Praying Together as a way of renewing hope.  The Lent booklet based on Mark’s Gospel is free in churches across the diocese – a reading, reflection prayer and action.  It is a simple formula that worked very well for us last year.  We found last year that 25,000 copies was not enough so this year we have printed more. If you find spare copies, give them away.  All sorts of people really appreciate them.  Thank you to the team that produced it, particularly Bishop Karen, Canon Tom Clammer and Gerry Lynch our Communications Director. Every day has been prepared by different people so thankyou to them too and today thanks to Everton McLeod from Hampreston and Stapehill for his contribution. 

Welcomes and Goodbyes

Welcome to those who are new to Synod. I particularly want to welcome to the diocese Brother Clark Berge SSF who will be here for the social justice item on the agenda. He is the new leader of the Hillfield community in succession to Br Sam SSF. Clark is an American and was the Minister General for the worldwide SSF and he is very welcome among us. 

This will be the last Diocesan Synod for Bishop Edward, Bishop of Ramsbury and Archdeacon Paul Taylor, Archdeacon of Sherborne both of whom are retiring.  Bishop Ed has served in this diocese for a significant 6 years.  He has loved the parishes and chaplaincies of the Wilts and Sarum Archdeaconries and has been a strong advocate for rural church. He chairs our Learning for Discipleship and Ministry Council and has helped us to develop the language and ideas of Renewing Hope.  I know that we will miss him Sarah greatly.  There will be a service of Evensong at St John’s Devizes on Sunday 15th April at 6pm which we will give thanks for his and Sarah’s contribution to the diocese and wish them farewell. 

Archdeacon Paul Taylor will be leaving a month later in May.  He has served here 14 years. He knows the people and parishes of West Dorset in a remarkable way and is the model of a parish priest Archdeacon. His farewell will be at the Archdeacon’s Visitation in Sherborne Abbey at 7.30pm on 24th May. This Synod is a particularly fitting final one for Paul because of his own commitment to social justice which he has led and championed for us. Synod will know that Jan Taylor has recently undergone major surgery.  I am pleased to say that it has gone well and they hope she will be home from hospital within the next week.  Recovery is going to take a while but the signs are good.  It is particularly good that Paul is able to be with us today. We wish Paul and Jan a long and happy retirement, as we do Bishop Ed and Sarah Condry.

If you would like to contribute to a leaving gift for both or either, please send your contributions to the Diocesan Secretary at Church House.  99 Crane Street, Salisbury, SP1 2QB and cheques should be paid to Salisbury Diocesan Board of Finance and marked clearly for the leaving gift of the Bishop of Ramsbury and or the Archdeacon of Sherborne.

Children, Young People and Social Justice

The Focus of this Diocesan Synod is Children, Young People and Social Justice.  I am enormously grateful to Sir Al Aynsley Green, former Children’s Commissioner, past president of the BMA, a former Chair of our DBE and Professor of Advocacy for Children at Nottingham Trent University.  Al is an international figure who lives in Salisbury and whose family is involved in various ways in the Cathedral.  Thank you to him for making time to be with us this morning.

We also have a small team from The Children’s Society.  A couple of years ago Helen and I hosted a reception at South Canonry for supporters of The Children’s Society in this Diocese.  There was a huge turnout, over 100 people came.  We discovered that Salisbury has more local groups and raises more money for The Children’s Society than any other Diocese.  This is a well established commitment and has been nurtured and cherished over the years, particularly by the remarkable work of Anne Falconer.  I am delighted to welcome her and other supporters of The Children’s Society to this Synod.

Both Sir Al and The Children’s Society have produced excellent papers to help us prepare for today. There has also been a lot in the news over that will have struck us in preparing for today including a number of reports about rising levels of poverty within our society.  Poverty restricts the choices people can make, leaving them in impossible situations like choosing either to heat their home or pay their rent.  With rising living costs and unstable work, our economy is holding people down and stopping many from choosing their own path.  We need to put this right so that everyone has a decent standard of living and children in particular have opportunities to grow and flourish.   

Poverty has stark effects.  The gap in life expectancy between England’s richest and poorest neighbourhoods has widened since 2001.  A report published this week said that on average, a boy in one of the most affluent areas will out live one born in one of the poorest by 8.4 years.  That does not fit with the love of neighbour taught by Christ but nor does fit with that basic human compassion which we as a country pride ourselves as living by.   

I was recently asked to join an All Party Parliamentary Group on Inter-generational fairness.  It is seeking to address issues underlying the feeling that those of us who are older have not just inherited wealth from our parents and made it in our generation but have also borrowed it from our children and grandchildren.  There is a serious issue here about justice and how we choose to live for the common good.   

Our commitment to children and young people is one of our priorities as a [-predetermined outcome and no intention of creating new agendas for busy people, churches and chaplaincies, but I hope today’s Synod will make us think and stimulate us and our communities to consider the needs of children and young people anew. We can do so much better. 

As an aside, one of the things that the Children’s Society is best known for is the annual Christingle Service which is an important way of telling the Christian story and connecting it with the care of children.  This year is the 50th anniversary of the 1st Christingle in this country.  There will be a big celebration in the Cathedral on 6th December, St Nicholas day, but I hope there will also be celebrations in many of our communities across the diocese where schools and churches can work together to help highlight and care for our children and young people.  It is a great opportunity and one I hope we will grasp. 


At General Synod last week there was also an extremely painful presentation on the current state of safeguarding in the Church.  The Church of England has dealt with 3300 allegations of abuse, 18% involving church officers and 6% involving clergy.  There have been some very high profile cases which have been deeply unpleasant.  It underlined the need for our commitment to create a safer Church.  I am really grateful that over a 1000 people in the diocese have undertaken safeguarding training.  However, I need to underline that this is now a commitment of the whole Church and that anyone in licensed of authorised ministry or who is in the categories identified by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor as needing to be trained, must undertake the safeguarding training that is now required, because of our commitment to children and young people. 

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, who leads on safeguarding, said that the next two years are likely to be very uncomfortable for the Church of England as we face the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. However uncomfortable, that we are acknowledging wrongs and facing up to our responsibilities will become the basis for hope renewed.  Our willingness to do this is about living with a firm commitment to travel in the way of Jesus Christ, with a particular care for children, young people and, indeed, for vulnerable adults. 

South Sudan

The news of the election of the new Primate of the Episcopal Church of the South Sudan is very welcome indeed.  There is an excellent report of the election by Robert Hayward from Sherborne on the diocesan website.  We pray for Archbishop and Primate elect Justin Bardi, currently bishop of Maridi and pray for him as he prepares for his installation as the senior Archbishop Primate, in Juba on the weekend of 21st/22nd April.   

It was a joy to welcome three South Sudanese Bishops who came to the Canterbury conference for new bishops from the Anglican Communion earlier this month – Bishops Simon, Joseph and Emanuel.  I am grateful for the ways in which the link is nurtured through deaneries across the diocese. 

Another item at General Synod noted the significance of diocesan links around the Anglican Communion.  We will need to start to prepare for our hosting visiting bishops and their wives for the Lambeth Conference in 2020.  

As we know from our links with the Sudan and South Sudan our partnership in the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a great deal including a strong commitment to justice. That leads us back to the theme today of justice at home as well as abroad. 

I pray that we will have a holy Lent in which we will pray, serve and grow, renewing hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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