A letter from the Bishop of Hereford
It was the former Bishop of Ludlow, John Saxbee, who I first heard describe a Deanery Synod as a group of Anglicans waiting to go home.
Those of us who have attended our share of such meetings can, I think, be forgiven for understanding such a definition, and might want to extend it to Diocesan Synod as well.
But there is more to it than that, and actually synods can play a significant part in the life of the Church. “Synod” means “meeting together”, and it is as representatives of different parishes meet in a synod that we can determine how best to work together for the good of all.
At its March meeting, the Diocesan Synod addressed two matters which are potentially very significant for each parish in the diocese and for the diocese as a whole.
The first was to move towards agreeing a diocesan strategy, or plan, or MAP (Mission Action Plan) - call it what you will. Across the diocese in recent years, parishes and benefices have been working on their MAPs; a diocesan MAP will seek to identify ways in which as a whole diocese we better encourage, support and enable local MAPs to be put into practice.
Our overall strap line is “Proclaiming Christ, growing disciples”, as we pray and work for spiritual and numerical growth, order our ministry to serve that aim, and continue to contribute to the good of our local communities.
So, in response to a great deal of listening around the diocese, not least through the Follow! process last autumn, the diocesan MAP will contain a wide range of ingredients. These will include the development of work with children and families, care of our buildings, promotion of courses to encourage enquirers to learn more about the Christian faith, and a lot more besides.
Secondly, the Diocesan Synod has agreed that from 1 January 2017, parishes will no longer be asked to contribute a prescribed amount in parish share, but will be asked to make a free will offering towards ministry across the diocese.
I know that there is still loads of education, information and encouragement to be shared to ensure that “informed generosity “becomes the order of the day and so that, in the words of St Paul, “God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance”.
My hope is that this will help us to put money in its right perspective, supporting our mission to be the people of God in this diocese.
Planning and paying go together; and prayer belongs with them. Watch out for opportunities to go deeper in prayer, not least around Pentecost (May 8th-15th) in response to our Archbishops’ call to prayer.