Bishop Stephen is travelling this month – on pilgrimage in the Holy Land and to the l’Arche conference in Belfast – so I have had the pleasant duty of accompanying our rather excellent Ely team at General Synod this week. They are pictured above enjoying a little Thankyou from me over lunch on its last day. From the left in case you don’t know them all: Hugh McCurdy’s elbow (sorry Hugh: cameraman fail), Janet Perrett, Mike Booker, Nick Moir, Helen Lamb, Simon Talbott and Francis Spufford.
Synod is pretty hard work despite this momentary respite, so what got done? Proper full reports will follow but my personal highlights were:
- The Archbishop of Canterbury’s opening address in which he told us what really happened at the Primates’ Gathering, behind all the spin. Remember that report that the Primates had had their phones taken away? Not true! In fact they delighted in waving them at the Archbishop to prove it. On the positive side, there were clearly moments when prayer and the presence of the Spirit changed everything, and made communion real. Alleluia!
- Just as one of the powerful moments of the Gathering was when the various Primates shared their deep local concerns about so much more than sexuality, so it was moving and powerful during the debate on the impact of sanctions on benefit claimants to hear stories from the north, south, east and west of our country about how local churches were responding. But why oh why is there such gut-wrenching need in the first place?
- Around the business in the main chamber there are always important side and fringe meetings, and I was able to attend one on Rural Mission – an important theme for a diocese like ours. I met up with former colleagues from Cumbria and Suffolk – impressive younger clergy belying the idea that rural had to equal old or non-missional. But it was odd that in the main chamber debate on evangelism there were powerful contributions on housing estates, chaplaincy, families – but rural got barely a mention. There’s a glass wall here that needs to come down. Perhaps a diocese like ours with many rural fresh expressions of church can help.
There was, as they say, much much more, and I haven’t even touched on th really big themes of “Renewal and Reform,” the Shared Conversations on sexuality, or Resourcing Ministerial Education (I’m no politician). Ask one of the team to tell you about them.