Synod 2011 - March


The East Midlands Synod
of The United Reformed Church

met on the beautiful Spring Morning

of Saturday 19th March 2011
at Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church

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?
Would you like to take the photographs?
Then please let the Synod Clerk know!
David Legge

Church SecretaryThe 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. Church Secretary Geoff gave us a brief history of the Town. It has a long and interesting story, and has been involved in two civil wars! In the first it switched sides from Royalist to Parliamentarian! The second was more recent – involving the coming of a big supermarket to the town.

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:

Sign to the churchShop in newport PagnellNewport PagnellNewport Pagnell

The Rose Windownweport PagnellNewport Pagnell


Synod Begins Revd Jenny MillsRevd Jenny Mills, Minister at Newport Pagnell, led the opening worship, choosing the theme of New Beginnings


Synod Clerk Duncan and Moderator Terry

Synod Clerk Duncan began to take
the minutes as Moderator Terry Oakley
addressed Synod.

Judith North and Colin Udall

Judith North and Colin Udall fielded questions about the Youth & Children Report before taking the young people away to bake bread and butter – Colin showed a butter church he bought on e-bay!


Geff Townsend

Geff Townsend presented the Pastoral Committee Report

Under this we heard news about the uncertainty over the future of the buildings in Yardley Hastings which means that the congregation is facing a new beginning.

Steve Fisher (URC) and  Steven Mosendale (Methodist) - pictured below - proposed & seconded that a united URC-Methodist Area be formally established in Milton Keynes. This will clarify the Free Church position in MK as the boundaries have or are about to change.

Steven Mosendale and Steven Fisher

Steve Faber, MissionSteve Faber, convenor of the Mission Development Group, presented the report and urges delegates to encourage their churches to take up "Back to Church Sunday". It is scheduled this year (2011) for 25 September but can be done on any Sunday. It is good to do it just before the regular Harvest Festival, because you then have something special to invite folk back to!

"Back to Church Sunday" plants the vision of a doubled congregation, and can be achieved in 12 step. Success is not measured in how many people come, but in how many people are invited! 


David Downing - MinistriesPresenting the Ministries report, David Downing spoke about how it was an exciting time exploring new beginnings in ministry

This led onto a resolution supporting Leicester City of Sanctuary – part of the Cities of Sanctuary movement, (a similar organisation in structure to Fair-trade Town/City ) As the action group is looking for active support.

This was broadened to include all cities and towns in the East Midlands, and proposed by Lynn Fowkes below.

Mission Enabler Lynn Fowkes

Brian Long   Susan Durber

Brian Long (an Elder in this Synod) & Susan Durber (principal) presented the “Vision for Westminster”.

Founded in 1899 but incorporating an earlier college founded 1844 in London, the college is part of our heritage, part of the powerful history of dissenting academies. The trustees want to make that come alive for new times. Colleges are increasingly involved in lay training, need to expand courses offered, and Westminster needs to upgrade facilities. Since its opening in 1895 “it has remained remarkably unmodified” said one surveyor. They hope to raise £2m from the 13 synods. Later our Synod voted to contribute its share!


Moderator Terry has his cakeThen it was time to embarrass Terry!

Paying tribute, Steve Faber referred to the restructuring of Synod;how Terry always sought to place mission at the centre, for example creating Mission Enablers and establishing the Mission Fund; and that his spirituality was noted and appreciated, rooted bathed and surrounded by prayer;

Helen Lidgett followed up reminded us of: Terry's encyclopaedic knowledge of the local churches – vital as the 'New Synod' took over from districts; how he enjoyed leading worship in local churches; how he explained encouraged, challenged, and chivvied churches; his true gift of leadership to encourage other view to be aired; and his encouragement for women to participate at all levels; and not least his pastoral care to retired ministers and widows.

Terry was then presented with a cake bearing his image!


Lunch time . . . .

Lunch timeLunch outsideFairtradeStall

Martin HazelMartin Hazell, Director of Communications for the URC, enthused about "The Advertising Campaign".

The U.R.C is really good about talking – now we need to do the walking. In this campaign we are wanting to attract people who are not in our church, who are not us! Inspired by the artistic style of Sister Corita, the posters are designed to 'grab' people instantly. If we are advertising a cutting edge church, then we have got to be one. So it requires churches to sign up, and to go through the training. Churches can 'express an interest' to get hold of the Campaign Pack which will give full detail of the training resources.

One speaker said they thought the posters would will work well in University setting.

Another comment was that there are many areas not addressed by the campaign - e.g. science – that people will want to confront before they come to church. Martin said that this is campaign is intentionally about common misconceptions

One question asked was “Can a campaign church change people who come? Isn't the Gospel about changing people. (Quote poster) Martin replied that the campaign is about change, but we need to begin with an open approach. Too many churches expect people to change before they welcome them. Journeying with someone as they change invokes change in those who do the accompanying.

Another question was ; “Are you vetted before you can be a campaign church” Martin replied that we realise that no one is ever going to be ready – so it is signing up to a covenant. We can not police churches – there will be mistakes, but better that than not trying at all.

There is a website forum where people can sign up to ask question of the campaign team. Askit dot U.R.C dot org dot uk



Helen LidgettRichard Turnbull  Robert White

Helen Lidgett (above left) presented the Finance Report, aided by Treasurer  Richard Turnbull (middle) and Property offcier Robert White (right).

Finance – although we have a surplus, most of that was due to some surprise bequests. This can not be relied on, and some is ring fenced. We were reminded that the Mission Fund exists to help churches in small projects.Richard retires later this year and was thanked for his diligence and the hard work he has put into the new 'formula' for calculation M&M contributions which for the first time allows churches to calculate their own figures!

Robert reported that the Land Registry process was proceeding, and that details were still awaited from the Land Registry via the synod solicitors.  He also referred to David Edwards Insurance Brokers who have been contacting local churches. They do provide advice and support for many U.R.C churches and other properties (e.g. Church House), and offer their advice at no cost to churches.

Moderator elect Peter MeekThe Synod clerk invited Revd Peter Meek,
who will be our new moderator from the end of summer,
to address Synod.
Peter will be living in Matlock
so that his wife Tracy may continue to work as a teacher in Buxton.

Bread & WineAssembly Moderator KirstySynod concluded with
a Communion Service
written by Terry
and led by him and Jenny Mills.

One of our Assembly Moderators, 
Revd Dr Kirsty Thorpe, preached.

The bread we shared
was some of that baked on the day
by the young people.