The East Midlands Synod
of The United Reformed Church
met on the beautiful Spring Morning of Saturday 10th March 2007
at Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church
The Church has a long history, being founded as a Congregational Church in 1660 by Revd John Gibbs was ejected from the Parish Church for refusing Holy Communion to some folk of the Parish. The current building, which dates back to 1881, has been extensively redeveloped inside and provided a pleasant and comfortable venue for synod.
Outside was nice too!
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!
You do not have to be able to take photographs - I or someone else can do that.
Resources from synod are attaced at the bottom of the page .
Synod this time was not as photogenic as in the past - the MMM event was not held, so that all staff could attend and share in the discussions about the shape of the new Synods. The bulk of the time (all morning and a good hour or so in the afternoon) was devoted to the Proposals for the New Synod which was extensively discussed and was the subject of several amendments. You can see the changes in the version attached to this report.
There was a healthy interest in the accountability and transparency of the new Synod. One of the first questions to be asked by Jim Brown (Castle Gate & St Andrew's) was "How does the local church raise Issues to be discussed at Synod level or Assembly?". Similarly, Les Gill (Whetstone) said that Synod needs to be accountable to the local churches, and this is not in the document. He laid a challenge on the synod members and local churches to make sure we work to make synod accountable to the local church. Alan Sell (who announced himself as "vagrant theologian") commented that the idea of Mutual accountability is inherent in the Basis of Union, under which every Synod must operate.
There was also some concern that much of the practical work of Synod - such as the Link with Botswana - will be devolved to "Networks". Eric Allen (retired Minister) reminded us that Networks are transient things - they depend on one or two key people to motivate the work, and can quietly fade away when those people move on. Duncan Wilson (Sherwood) was concerned that this apparent side lining of Church and Society matters gave the general impression that the church was not at all concerned about the world, but was totally inward looking.
One astute member asked about the 'shape' of Ordinations and Inductions. At present they are held in the context of a District Meeting (some Districts convene this in the vestry before hand; others more publicly in the service itself). There was a fascinating exchange among the platform party at the front over the interpretation of the new rules laid down by assembly, and a complete split of opinion as to whether it will be a 'meeting of Synod' or simply 'under the auspicies of Synod'! This will be researched!.
As the debate went on, these ideas were tested by asking Synod members to hold up an orange card if we were warming to the idea, or a blue card if we were not. Elizabeth Nash, in the chair, told us what she could see, so we had a feeling of which was things might go, and invited those in the minority to speak first. It was a wonderful way of facilitating the discussion, and I think made the work much lighter than it might otherwise have been. Elizabeth chaired the whole (long) session admirably.
I will not attempt to list the amendments to the document which came along with the debate - you should consult the formal minutes when they are produced, or look out for the revised version of the Booklet which should, in the fullness of time, find its way onto this site.
Synod was informed that there are discussions with the Charity Commissioners over the precise wording regarding some of the changes necessary in losing Districts, which might delay their adoption. In order to facilitate the changeover from Districts to Synods in July this year, Synod passed a resolution asking Districts to pass a resolution devolving their power to synod:-
East Midlands Synod requests Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincoln, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire District Councils to resolve that from 10th July 2007 they devolve all responsibilities to the East Midlands Synod or its committees, and to recognise that the Synod meeting or duly authorised committees thereof, will act as East Midlands District Council, until the removal of district Councils from the structure of the United Reformed Church.
The debate above was interupted by Lunch,
and the celebration of Holy Communion....
The last hour or so of Synod was devote to the rest of the Business (initially expected to fill the whole afternoon!). It may have lasted for a shorter time, but it felt just as long as the rest of synod!
Here are some highlights
Granville Jackson gave an interesting presentation with photographs, on the recent synod visit to the United Congregational Church of South Africa organised to deliver a training course - Conflict Management through Mediation. The course was run at Kuruman, a mission station which was established by the London Missionary Society (LMS) in 1816 and built up by Robert Moffat in the 1820's. This was especially interesting to me as Moffatt was connected with my 'home' church, Roby URC in Manchester where you can still see "Dr Moffat's Chair" in the vestry.
Duncan Wilson presented the items brought by the Finance and Property Group, which included information from Robert white, Trust officer, about Entertainment Licensing. This is a minefield, and the penalties for not complying are high. Please read the minutes from Synod or contact Robert directly at the Synod Office if you have any entertainment at your church.
Also included in this section was a report from Derek Hopkins (right), the director of Crossways , about the program of events that are planned.
Muriel Garrow, seen here with Mission in the World convener John Hall in the background, gave us news about the forthcoming visit in July '07 of a Choir from Botswana. It will give concerts at four venues through the synod, as well as possibly appearing at General Assembly. Tim brought news of an interesting conference Engaging Faith .... building cohesion in our community; bringing people of faith and people from the statutory and voluntary sectors together.
Look at the Links below for machine readable version of the MitW reports to Synod.
Sarah and Avril presented a thorough report from Fury Assembly. The United Reformed Church is blessed with its youth and rightly organises top quality events at national and Synod level for them to be enabled to participate in the life of the denomination. The quality of the reports we receive at Synod bears witness to that.
Finally we returned to the Synod Structures.
"How are we going to fill all of those posts?" as been the question on many peoples lips. Well, Judith Booth and the Nominations sub group have been working hard, and presented a list of Nominations to Synod with very few gaps!
I think it helped that the New Synod Strictures are in fact very similar in many respects to the existing one.
...and the moderator closed the meeting
and we shared the grace together.