For the first time in the history of Connor Diocese, the annual Diocesan Synod took place online due to the ongoing restrictions related to Covid-19.
Around 150 members took part on 24th June 2021, joining the hosts via Zoom.
Earlier, a Service of Holy Communion was held in St Stephen’s Parish Church, Millfield, and was livestreamed on the Connor Facebook page.
The business of Synod got underway at 2pm with scripture read by Dr Allison Campbell, Skerry, Rathcavan and Newtowncrommelin; and prayers led by the Rev Peter Blair, All Saints’, Belfast.
As Judge Derek Rodgers has stood down as Chancellor, Bishop George nominated the Ven Barry Forde, Archdeacon of Belfast and Chaplain at Queen’s University, to be assessor for this Synod.
Bishop George commented that Judge Rodgers had served as Chancellor for many years. “He was a source of wise advice to us all, and we appreciated his willingness to serve. We thank him for all his work in this role,” the Bishop said.
Following the acceptance of the minutes of the last Connor Synod, the bishop delivered his Presidential Address which focused on the pandemic and the changes it brought about in how the Church and specifically parishes in Connor Diocese connect with people.
Bishop George paid tribute to the ‘remarkable’ way clergy and parishes responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic, and the creative way they had continued to offer worship and serve their communities.
Speaking of those who have lost loved ones to the virus, the bishop said his thoughts and prayers were with all who mourn. He made special reference to the Rev John Anderson, rector of Billy and Derrykeighan, whose death in April from Covid-19 had been such a great shock.
The bishop paid tribute to those members of Connor Diocese who played a part in responding to the crisis and whose professions brought them to the frontline.
And he said that parishes, forced to change routines and learn new skills, had discovered that doing things differently provided new opportunities to reach out with the good news of Christ to a wider range of people.
Covid-19 was not the only challenge, Bishop George told Synod. “Demographic changes and an increasingly secular outlook on the part of wider society bring their own difficulties and sometimes we have struggled to respond effectively. Increasingly the Church is seen as out of touch and irrelevant in the world of today – ‘nice if you like that sort of thing’ at best and ‘a threat to people’s freedom’ at worst!” the bishop said.
But he stressed that when the gospel is proclaimed, lives are changed. “We simply need to discover ways of connecting effectively with the community around us so that people will want to know more of what it is that motivates us and take us seriously when we share our story of life and hope,” the bishop said.
“Perhaps however, the same openness to trying new things that has enabled us to respond to the challenges of Covid will also enable us to consider ways of addressing those challenges too. We have learned that sometimes it is when we have to step out of our comfort zones that we start to see new and exciting things happen!”
Concluding his address, Bishop George spoke of the work of the diocesan staff team, including changes in personnel. Team Connor, however, was not just staff, but every member of the clergy and every parishioner in the diocese, he told Synod.
“It’s my desire as your bishop to nurture a sense of fellowship and belonging across the diocesan family so that we may better support one another as together we hold out ‘the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all’ (Acts 10:36). Please pray for me in that work, as I will pray for you,” Bishop George concluded.
The bishop’s full presidential address can be read online at https://bit.ly/2TehvCA.