The East Midlands Synod
of The United Reformed Church
met on Saturday 3rd November 2012
at Sinfin Moor LEP
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 I 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!
Despite being a dull morning, with the rain drizzling incessantly, everyone seemed to arrive if good spirits, judging from the buzz before the meeting. Barbara & Ted Landon (alias Charlie the monkey, or harry the young lad) led Opening Worship, helping us to remember that in order to cope with whatever troubles befall us we need to keep our eyes in Jesus.
During the ‘Welcome of new folk to Synod’, we were reminder that it was the Revd Reg Dean’s 110th birthday the following day.
Mair Bradley explained how Sinfin Moor grew from a meeting in the vicars home, through owning a house and then building the current premises. There are problems with the buildings, but these are more than outweighed by the welcome of the fellowship.
David Downing told us that despite getting a good number, the response regarding local church leadership were completely unhelpful as the wide range of opinions gave no clear way forward.
– Even though there is a need to help churches run with a smaller part of a minister, there were clearly still problems with the idea of local church leader. So, there will be no more ‘local church leaders’ appointed.
However, the committee realised they did not need to ‘re-invent’ the wheel, as we already have local church leaders. They are called Elders, and they are the superhero’s of the Synod! Elders need to be enabled to do this. Many say they are bogged down with the work of being ‘trustees’, so the committee will be looking at how the Elders work as a whole may be restructured to enable the Elders recover this aspect of their work.
A ‘thank you’ was given to everyone in Synod who is involved in local church leadership.
Geoff Townsend – spoke on Deployment.
The Synod will end the year with 5 ministers over the allocated quota. Number of ministers will have to reduce, but the workload will not – care will be needed not to overload our Stipendiary ministers. We will need to develop new patterns of ministry.
S.C.M posts will continue much as they are for the time being, but will be limited to 8% of the synod’s allocated deployment.
Jim Gould is MASA and has simplified it. Ministers will no doubt now be looking forward to their next Appraisal.
Synod discussed the two reports – first in groups then in plenary, and the discussion focussed on local leadership. I suppose we were all resigned to the required fall in number of ministers - there is not a lot we can do abut it. Many comments were made, not all positive. The idea of a ‘Lead Elder’ (a vague idea just thrown in for the discussion) received quite some attention, as it could run against the ‘team’ nature of the Eldership, but others had experienced something similar which seemed to work; Several commented on the fact that the Elders are the people already doing a lot of work in the church and needed reassurance that the committees plans were meant to easy the burden not add to it. At the end, the feeling of Synod was that exploring and refining the work of Elders was the route to follow.
Lucy Connel from Christian Aid spoke about the Fair Tax Campaign
there are four ways for a country to get money:–
1. borrow it; but that has to be paid back with interest.
2. be given it (aid)
– but this develops dependence,
and often has other strings attached.
3: steal it (!)
4: earn it – sell something and take taxes.
This encourages population to get interested in politics,
and allows the country to look after its own population.
So tax is good! However most developing countries loose a huge amount from tax dodging – globally they loose more in total than all the aid given! This is corporate tax dodging – such as the use of tax havens, and is done mainly by multi national companies. They do not have to publicise their figures for each country – just global, so there is no way to monitor this. Guatemala, for example, is a middle income country but has a huge poverty problem with many children suffering from chronic malnutrition. Aid agencies try to solve individual cases, but this does not tackle to root cause.
The UK is centrally placed to improve accountancy methods – we invented them and all the big four accountancy firms are (or were originally) British! Lobbying companies to get them to ask for the change as part of their social responsibility is part of this campaign.
Bolivia has started to tackled this as far as they can. They have managed to increase their tax take, and rely a little less on Aid. They did not gain much, but had enough to give $13.50pa to a family so they can afford schooling. They give a free meal to every primary School child practically wiping out malnutrition. They have improved Old Age Pensions – a £40 increase and paid monthly (rather than annually in a lump sum). This helps individuals to budget and plan but is more expensive to administer; It is now paid at 60 (average life expectancy is 65 – obvious benefit).
Look at the Christian aid Tax website (LINK) to see how you can get involved!
TLS & Ch & Socy
Charles Jolly reminded us of the TLS course and that it is not just for lay preachers
Have expressed thanks to the ministers who have give their time to tutor people on this course; Some people achieving their TS were given certificates at Synod; Val Smith & Jean Hudson – first two years; and Mark Hodgson - Gateway to Worship module.
To help churches engage Environmental issues Charles commended – Transition Towns; and Operation Noah, especially their Ash Wednesday Declaration.
Finance & Property
Helen Lidgett set us a task:
Here is a list of costs on the Synod accounts;
which three do you think are the most important,
which would you choose?
After thinking for a moment, and choosing for ourselves, as the list was read out, we showed orange cards for those three so a straw poll was taken; The exercise gave us an idea how difficult are the choices facing the Finance & Property Committee.
David Greatorix presented the budget figures for the next couple of years. Each group or committee has risen to the challenge of reducing costs, but there are still uncertainties ahead. For example, the amount we get from the URC Resource sharing may be substantially reduced as all synods are facing the same financial stringencies loosing us several tens of thousands of income.
He pointed out the we already get a sizeable ‘grant’ from central funds in the form of £100,000 rebate from M&M. This levy was agreed many years ago with the national church to fund Synod, which is one of the poorest.
Robert White presented a resolution
regarding the funding of Building surveys
– that churches should pay 50% of the cost in line with other synods.
This was carried by agreement.
Mission Develoment Group
Steve Faber quoed from scripture
- "Encourage one an other as you are doing" –
and then asked are we?
How much do we encourage each other, really?
How much do we know about other churches in our synod,
in our areas?
We are not good a telling our stories,
at sharing our successes, our attempts, and our failures.
MiDG would like to share some stories
– and post some on our website.
We started at Synod.
Jane Barron, Melbourne, – told us that they have been getting back to basic by reading Acts.
They discovered the early church prayed before doing any thing
– so they now have a prayer meeting every Monday morning to pray for 45 mins.
Starting with 6 people, they are now up to 14 regular attenders.
They have Distributed 140 holding crosses (smooth wooden crosses like the one she is holding) – so people can hold a cross when the prayer are praying for them.People now ask for them. Some people who are not Christian but who have been prayed for say they have felt the power of this prayer.
Malcolm Fife: The Dales
told us about two young people who started a youth event – "WHAM"
– even though there were no kids at the church. This took off and has grown.
They now get 15 on a Sunday afternoon (not the same people each week)
and a church youth group has formed naturally out of this.
Youth & Children
Jenny Mills reminded us that work amongst are young people is essential for the future of the denomination. The two newly inducted Regional Pilots Officers will play a pivotal role in the future of the synod’s work with Children & Young People.
At the last meeting of the Youth and Children’s Policy Group,
we revisited previous work and, after discussion,
came up with the purpose of the Group:
‘ Supporting CYDO through collaboratively setting targets aiming to shape Youth and Children’s Work in the future and deciding on priorities, initiating policy and investigating how we can support and resource local churches in their Youth and Children’s Work, as far as possible to be ecumenically focused.’
As Colin is leaving us in December we will need to rephrase this BUT the essence of our purpose remains the same and we intend to keep Youth and Children’s Work high on the Synod agenda.
Colin Udall has served the synod for 11 years and he will be sorely missed.
In thanking Colin, and presenting a gift, the Moderator said to him "it seems somehow hollow to say ‘thank you’ because what you have done has been so immense"
Young people at Synod
Colin presented the work done by the Children attending Synod
They drew up a description of "our idea of a perfect minister", and "our idea of a perfect church", and shared their findings together with some perceptive wisdom, such as.
"Sharing the jobs should mean the right person for the job not the first!"
"Being a ‘kids’ friendly church is not necessarily opposite to an adult friendly church."
The Moderator inducted
Gus Webb and Tricia Legge as Regional Pilot Officers,
and Ruth Allen Synod lay P commissioner,
The Synod Clerk and Office Administrator
are in the background of this photo
Training for Learning and Serving Awards
The moderator awarded certificates to Jean Hudson & Val Smith for completing the two year TLS Foundation Course
and to Mark Hodgson for completing the Gateway to Worship module - which allows him to become a Nationally Accredited Lay Preacher.
General shots of Synod