Reflections from East Midlands Synod meeting
Which met on Saturday 20th March 2010
at Loughborough URC
The East Midlands Synod
of The United Reformed Church
of The United Reformed Church
Met on Saturday 20th March 2010 starting at 10.30am
at 39 Frederick Street, Loughborough, Leics., LE11 3BH
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] urc [dot] org [dot] uk know!
You do not have to be able to take photographs - I or someone else can do that.
Tamara Oates, convenor of Youth group,
led the opening worship on the theme of trust
She made full used of computer presentation software,
and showed some video clips.
Terry and Deborah presided at the communion service which started the afternoon session.
Throughout the day in the Halls the fairtrade stall was open
- do you support Fairtrade?
Does your church run a stall?
Contact the Synod Office if you are interested.
Charles Jolly (right, addressing Synod)
was also on hand to talk about the TLS course,
show resources from Christian Ecology Link (below) ,
Commitment for Life, Operation Noah, TLS (below),
and his Short election briefing document which will help you
address questions to your local candidates about development issues.
Peter Rippon, Church Secretary
introduced news about Loughborough URC which has seen its income grow so much that it recently had to register as a charity.
Much of this income is from use of premises, but the church does not just view its hall users as income providers - rather all user groups are regarded as part of church family.
These groups cover three broad Areas: Youth & arts, (brownies, drama groups and dance...), ‘academic' (English & maths...) and Caring (knitting group, Age Concern, groups for adults with learning difficulties...)
Like many churches, LURC has seen a decrease in membership over the years, but this has bottomed & it is starting to grow.
The Zimbabwe Flag
outside the church has invoked much comment from the neighbourhood.
It is there because Helen Playdon is exhibiting and selling Zimbabwean artwork from the Art East Cooperative.
Many of their homes were destroyed by government in 2005 and now they are supported by Silvera House ( a URC Commitment for Life Partner)
Your church can be host to this exhibition when it moves on!
Contact Helen through the Synod Office.
Colin Udall gave a long presentation about the new
Please make sure that your church picks up the latest information from the forthcoming 'roadshows' on the subject.
Look at the notes from Colin's Synod presentation soon to be attached below.
Vetting and Barring Scheme
that comes in the place of (or is it alongside?) the Criminal Record Bureau checks. This will eventually improve things as the checks will be portable from organization to organization. However it will become a mandatory legal obligation with fines for organizations that do not comply.
Our Synod Clerk, Duncan Smith
shared a little of what has come up in our Synod review, that it is common to most synods, and is being shared with those yet to be reviewed - which means the East Midlands Synod is setting an example in the URC! Most of the items raised in the review are already being worked on. Synod is continuing to review how it works and improve how it encourages churches to be involved in mission.
He also presented the changes to the Mission Development Group.
gave here last presentation as convenor of the SEARCh group, and gave special thanks to everyone who have served synod for their term of 6 yrs.
We are looking for ordinary people to fill these rolls - if you know anyone who might be able to serve the Synod in this way, please pass their names to synod office or directly to Irene Wren.
The SEARCH group is charged with finding a range of people to fill the various different posts and sit on committees. Very often they tear their hair out to discover new people.
Claire Downing, convenor of the Pastoral Group,
presented the List of Authorised Lay Presidents, and reminded us that this is (nationally) an annual review.
There are a number of gaps in the list - is your church one?
Does your church require someone to be authorised to preside at Communion of Baptism ceremonies or not?
Please communicate this to the synod office and the Pastoral group will approve on behalf of Synod any additions.
Even (especially) if your church does not need one, then please let us know that too.
There is planned a Review of the policy & theology of lay presidency. Synod asked for this to be an open discussion from the outset, and not restricted to the Pastoral Group
We were also reminded of the rolling out of the Local Ministry & Mission Review (LMMR) which replaces the district Quinquennial Visitation. This involves creation a New Style Pastorate Profile which is a 'living document', and is for the church not a prospective minister! Essentially it should set out general directions for the Mission of the local Church, and will be reviewed every 4 years. This can be done by the church & Minister alone, or can involve Mission Enablers, Pastoral Consultants, members of the Training team or whoever the church feels may help them the most.
Prayer4life Summer Synod
Each church will soon receive a square of black cloth.
Please decorate it with symbols of prayer and bring it along
(or if you really can not come,
send it to the office)
they will be assembled into a big banner on the day
Richard Turnbull and Robert White did their usual double act
on Finance and Property
Sharing agreements - From the floor, Paul Bedford suggested we do as much of the work in house as we can, using the model Agreement as closely as you can so that when the solicitors are involved (as they must be) all they have to do is approve the document. This will cut costs and speed up the process. Synod will pay half the legal cost.
URC Ministers Pension Fund is at the bottom of the league at the moment. It may take up to 20 yrs to make up the shortfall (depending on the future performance of the market).
The Pension Regulator has asked for a commitment to be shown by the church to support the fund - hence the resolution to contribute from Synod. Every synod will be faced with a similar resolution, the figures are set for 2010, 11 & 12 according to the number of members in each synod. Manses are excluded from the '10% of property sales' contribution for 2012 and beyond this because they are restricted by law.
A Summary of Accounts (draft) was presented for information.
We were reminded that the accounts are the responsibility of the trust to produce audit and adopt, not the synod (just as church accounts are the responsibility of the Elders not the church meeting). They are made available on the synod website or through the synod office in May as soon as they have been adopted.
The M&M review process is still a work in progress, and it is a most intricate task. There are differences from church to church as to how church accounts are produced which make direct comparisons a time consuming affair. There are differences of opinion as to how specific some of the details of Synods policy should be. Thus it will not be able to produce agree the new formula (based on income) for use this year - it will be postponed to 2012. An interim solution, to base the 2011 figs on the 2010 figs, was passed.
Registration of the Title with Land registry
Questions have been asked in the past about registering church property with the Land registry. As it is an expensive process, the advice was to leave it until necessary. However, there has been an invitation by the land registry to do it in bulk for the whole synod at huge discount which averages out at about £9 per church. This is too good an opportunity to miss, and so Robert was given approval to peruse it. This only applies to churches who use the East Midlands Synod Trust as their custodial trustees. And inventive for those churches who still have their own elected trustees to join?
Gordon Milnes (right) was introduced
as the Synod Link Person
for One Church 100 Uses (1C100)
When the national URC closed Synod believed that with sound management the centre could be successful. This has been a longer process than was original thought. colour
An agreement with the Milton Keynes Christian Foundation fell through because they could not guarantee the church being available for the congregation every Sunday. Synod set up the Crossways centre itself. Income has increased but the economic climate has meant that Synod's contribution has been larger than expected. The lack of en-suit facilities prevents many outside organisations from using the facility.
In November last year Synod asked for a definitive report to be presented to this meeting. However, there are possible sources of funding that take more than six moths to pursue.
The management committee was granted further time to explore these sources of grants, and to explore the wisdom of setting up an independent chartable body to run the centre.
This was the last time for Paul Bedford as convenor - he now moves to serve as a Pastoral consultant.
Prayer & Spirituality
Mike Playdon is a wondeful resource for all churches to use!
Don't take my word for it, invite him to your church.
He can lead a "Ways of Praying" day, help you work through 'Prayer4Life', and all sorts of other things to do with Prayer.
He promoted Day of Prayer at Leicester to be led by Duncan Tuck.