The East Midlands Synod
of The United Reformed Church
met on Saturday 1st November 2008 here at Whetstone URC, Leicester.
Here are my observations
of some of the things that went on at Synod.
These are not official minutes, and can not be guaranteed for their accuracy. I have concentrated on the things that struck me as interesting or important, and will have omitted reporting on some issues which you may have picked up.
Would you like to have a go at reporting the events at Synod for the website?
Then please let the clerk [at] urc5 [dot] org [dot] uk know!
You do not have to be able to take photographs - I or someone else can do that.
The Moderator, Terry Oakley, stamped his authority on this autumn's Synod Brownie style by rasining his hand whenever he wanted discussion to end
At the start of Synod, he invited Revd Les Gill to come forward and share news of the Host Church, Whetstone URC, Leicester. Les took the opportunity to speak about some of the UCB publications he uses, in particular Word for Today
From left to right:
Lindsey Cole, Synod Lay Preaching Commissioner, and Stanley Jackson, TLS coordinator
presented Hazel Coley with her "Assembly Accredited Lay Preacher" certificate,
and Charles Jolly with his "Diploma in Contextual Theology".
Well done to them both!
The business of the day commenced after a time of Bible Study based on the Beatitudes as found in Matthew 5.
T his synod focussed heavily on the twin issues of "the Synod Mission" and "our Finances" which were heavily intertwined.
The approval of the Budget for 2009 depended upon the acceptance by Synod of several proposals regarding the Mission Strategy for the Synod.
Acceptance of them depended somewhat on knowing their financial implications.
So the budget was presented by the Finance Committee early on in the day, but as not approved by synod until most of the debating had taken place.
It was the first outing to Synod for Helen Lidgett (right) as convenor of the Finance & Property committee. She coped well with the huge amount of work that was presented from that group.
Elizabeth Nash took the Chair to allow the Moderator to present the Synod Mission Strategy. Claire Downing, our representative on the national Mission Committee, presented an overview of the National Strategy (Draft) so that we could see how our work fits in to that (or vice versa)
At the end of the day The Synod Mission Strategy was accepted as a working draft and referred to local churches (church meeting and elders) for their.
Download a copy from the link below and take it to your Church Meeting and/or Elders Meeting.
Ask the questions about both your local church and the Synod:
What are we here for? What is our mission?
How can we prioritise the nine elements in the strategy? Is anything missing?
Feed back your comments to the Synod Office.
Synod Treasurer Richard Turnbull called upon several times during the day to clarify financial questions.
Some decisions which I imagined would pass through Synod quite easily in actual fact took up some time.
For example, the proposal to increase the Mileage allowance for Synod events from 25p to 30p invoked quite a debate.
Some people argued that in times of financial stringency we should keep costs low, or reminded us that petrol is now dropping in price. Others said that the rate of 25p had not been changed for over 7 years, and that it included a consideration for the maintenance of the vehicle.
I did not speak, but I though that as a minister (i.e. someone for whom this is my livelihood) I like to think that I am being offered a reasonable rate for my mileage (the local church gives 40p per mile!) - it is part of being valued. I also know that I do not have to claim every single mile, so why all the fuss?
I was also slightly surprised at the argument over whether the new Training Officer (to replace Elizabeth Nash when she retires next year) should be a minister of word and sacrament or not.
I can say that I think we have been very well served by Elizabeth over the past few years. I know that when I talk to her about training or other issues, I am talking to someone who has been where I am, and can empathise with my needs. She is not coming from a totally theoretical or academic perspective. This is just my opinion, but I should think that through the work of training and supporting ministers in the field, Elizabeth has through them given back to the local church more than the one post we have 'lost' in placing her in this synod position. However, Synod asked the enabling group to reconsider employing a lay training officer, even though this could be twice as expensive.
What do you think?
Feedback through our experimental FORUM
All decisions at this assembly were arrived at using "Consensus Procedures". The photo shows the sea of orange that the Moderator sees when consensus is reached!
The procedure was used heavily in the debate on whether to use "1 church 100 Uses" (1C100U) as part of our synod strategy. Look back to my report on the Spring Synod to remind yourself of Lord Andrew Mawson's presentation.
Adopting it will consume some of the Synod's resources in both people and money. But we need to invest for the future - "The church is used to saving for a rainy day. Well take a look - it is pouring down. Now is the time to spend!" was one comment. Many people thought this was a very business centred approach, and that the resolution offered made no mention of creating Christian Community. They Consensus process allowed the basic resolution adopting 1C100U to be passed, and over lunch an additional resolution was composed by those people who felt strongly over this either way: "Synod agrees that the 1C100U projects should be people, community and mission centred within the framework of the Synod strategy, calling,vision aims and principles." This was passed.
Lunch in the Hall
- a brief time to eat, relax and catch up with colleagues from other churches,
buy a book from the Bookstall,
or some fairtrade goods.
Rachel Coupe, founder and Managing Director of "Grace" was present at the start of Synod and over lunch to answer questions about her organisation. 'Helping Churches to reach children' is the motto of "Grace" which operates as an agency hat sub-contracts children's workers to local churches.
Can't afford of Children's worker for yourself?- share one through Grace!
Worried about all the planning and paperwork? Let Grace do that for you!
Back to business:
Derek Hopkins - Crossways Director - was on hand to tell us the story of our retreat and conference centre.
Due to unforeseen factor like illnesses and maternity leave, the centre has not broken even this year and will need further support from synod.
The centre is used quite well by many different organisations and denominations - but surprisingly not so well by us!
Does your church organise a church away day?
If you can't travel to Crossways, can they come to facilitate an event at your church?
Do you know of groups or organisations that go away from planning meetings or similar- could they use Crossways?
"Thank you for giving us a glimpse of heaven!"
Click on the menu link at the top of this page to find out more about Crossways or download a promotional brochure below.
Robert White, our Trust and Property officer presented a complicated resolution regarding the assets and liabilities of Synod being held by the Trust Company - United Reformed Church (East Midlands Province) Incorporated - as principle rather than as nominee.
The moderator had introduced this business saying that after the debate he expected that there will still be only one person present who really understood it - i.e. Robert!
However, Robert explained that this was required in order to comply with the Charities Act 2006 and then were were happy to pass the resolution.
Robert also explained that the guidelines for local churches registering as charities had now been agreed and were available for download from the URC National website.
These guidelines must be followed exactly.
Sue Richardson, Christian Aid's Regional Rep, spoke of fund-raising work being done in Leicestershire to further work with The Church of South India supporting people with HIV/Aids.
Following a request from the floor, it was agreed that information about this appeal would be circulated throughout the synod, even though some counties have overseas links with different churches.
Duncan Smith delivered a paper in which he proposed how synod should deal with matters arising from General Assembly, and usefully lists those matters which local churches need to be aware of.
See his paper, attached below.
some amendments were made including:
- 3. Resolution 28: to replace the word Pastoral Committee with Ministries Committee
- 5. Resolution 33: delete 'passed on to chruches' and 'by churches and the Synod administration' (as it goes directly to chruches from Assembly)
-9. resolution 49: will be brought to Synod in March 09 for debate.