The EastMidlands Synod
of The United Reformed Church
met on the foggy morning of Saturday 14th October
at Sherwood URC, Nottingham.
This is the church at which the Synod Office is Located.
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 Synod Clerk know!
Opening Worship focused on the fact that October was a "Month of Mobilisation" - there was a global call for action against poverty.
As part of the liturgy, we were invited to 'stand up against poverty' and to say these words (in solidarity with others who would be doing the same the following day)....
As part of the generation that demands an end to poverty,
I stand up:
- for the 30,00 children killed by poverty today;
- to insist that governments keep their promises to the poor to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and aim much higher;
- for action not excuses;
- for justice and equality;
I stand up against poverty.
After this Mrs Jill Turner (left), Secretary of Sherwood URC welcomed Synod to the church. and we moved swiftly into the business of the day.
Colin Udall briefly spoke about the exciting agenda the young people were going to follow (more later) and we wished we were joining them!
One of the young people, Daniella (right), spoke about the recent weekend Conference on Poverty.
Linda Granville, CRCW in Nottingham, and Synod Advocate for Racial Justice, delivered a presentation about the new "URC Multicultural Tool kit".
"It is about meeting Christ in a different other
... about discovering the fullness of Christ through the fullness of humanity.
Our moderator, Terry Oakley, gave a fascinating and well received talk to lead us into our discussion about New Synods.
Terry began with ideas from Mission Council: He asked us
"What would we like to be known for?"
Elaborating, he invited us to think of the Synod and our local church as people - what would they be like? Would the recognise each other?
Not that we are thinking of our obituary just yet. Terry said that there is a growing understanding that God is calling the URC not to disappear, but to be a par of the church of the 21st century! And if this is true, should we not expect there to be renewal and growth?
Terry developed the idea of the comparison between a church and a person - different people are at different stages of life - and so are our various churches.
The New Synods need to resource and support the lives of local churches - it is no use having a committee if it does not link in to the life of a local church in some way. Terry presented the latest draft of the working document for our discussions, and invited questions. Revd Dr Alan Sell brought a theological point rather than a question. He said that the purpose of the church (according to the Bible) is to worship the triune God and proclaim the Good News of God's saving love, and offered a small amendment to make that clear in the discussion document. Although it was in order to table such an amendment, I thought synod was in sympathy with it's sentiments.
In his reply to the two questions which were asked, Terry said there was a desire to enable local churches to set the agenda for Synods, and Synods to set the agenda for Assembly.
We then broke into small groups to discuss:
1. How can Synod have an effect to help local churches.
2. Do we prefer local area teams or a single team of experts.
The fruits of the written submissions from these groups will help shape the next draft of the discussion document.
You can also read the script of Terry's Moderator's Report which he delivered in the session after lunch.
During lunch we could :-
....Buy items from the Tradecraft stall....
....Give our treasurer great pleasure
by claiming our mileage expenses!....
After lunch, the synod session opened with what was for me the highlight of the day :
- a sketch about the desperate need for donations to the Retired Ministers Housing Fund - not because it will help my retirement, but because Duncan Wilson (seen here with his wife acting the role of a destitute on a park bench) was called (in the play) a "silly little man"!
Bob Pursar from the area known as 'Shire and Soak' (Northamptonshire and the Soak of Peterborough) spoke about the ecumenical work going on to ensure that 'the church' is represented in the new estates being built. In many places up and down the country, new estates have been built with no attempt to build 'community'. The churches seek to redress that, and are working together to enable local churches to engage in the planning process, and to enable them be 'be' the church in those newly built estates. This is seen as a mission opportunity to give the gospel to people at a time of movement in their lives. It will be an uphill struggle, because in their research they have found that people do not know their neighbours, and do not want to get to know them!
Stewart Dew, from the Church & Society Department in London, came to speak about developments there. A new interdenominational group has been formed for a trial period - between the URC, Methodists, and Baptists. This group is looking at how the Gospel can inform decisions on the big issues in society today. (See Appendix below)
He reminded us that next year in the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery, and asked "but has slavery really been abolished?". He reminded us about sweatshop labour around the world which brings us the cheap goods we desire; about people trafficking; and about Fairtrade and make poverty history.
Other 'hot' issues at the moment are 'assisted dying' - the need to discover God's justice in this field; and Trident (he commended the URC/Methodist publication "Peacemaking: a Christian Vocation". You can find more about the work of Church & Society on the URC national website.
The young people returned from the "MMM" sessions, and treated us to some drumming . . .
... to some drama . . .
... Terry closed synod in prayer, and asked for an encore on the drums.