Connor Diocesan Synod 2022 was held in the impressive surroundings of Belfast Cathedral on June 16, 2022 with around 250 clergy and lay members in attendance.
This was the first in-person Synod since June 2019, and was preceded by a Service of Holy Communion. At the start of the formal business, the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison, introduced the assessor, Judge Alistair Devlin, who was invited to take on the role of Chancellor of the Diocese, succeeding Judge Derek Rodgers.
In his presidential address, Bishop George said he had called the meeting with ‘a genuine sense of joy.’ “Whilst we have managed to conduct our business in the intervening years using the technology available to us, there is nothing quite like meeting together,” he said.
He added that parishes had responded ‘amazingly’ in the face of lockdown and the pandemic. “People adapted, learned new skills, found imaginative ways of keeping connected and altered the way that they worked to meet a new situation,” he said.
He spoke of challenges including changing patterns of life; finance and resources; of increasing burdens of red-tape; and the difficulty of finding the volunteers needed to do everything that needs done.
“As a diocese, I want us to nurture a sense of the support that we can be to one another. I think that it is vital that we understand the diocese as part of who we are, part of that wider network of relationships that connects and supports us as Christians,” he said.
The Bishop said that sometimes the structures which have served a parish well in the past need to be looked at and new ideas discussed and tried.
“Across the diocese, but particularly in the Archdeaconry of Belfast, we have seen changes that have caused us to recognise that we need to try new things in order to grow and revitalise the Church,” the Bishop told Synod.
He revealed a new five-year partnership project between the diocese, the RCB and the parishes of St Aidan, St Mary Magdalene and St Simon with St Philip, Belfast. This will see Archdeacon Barry Forde leave the Chaplaincy at Queen’s University to work in a new role supporting the developing of Pioneer Ministries and facilitating reshaping for mission across the Archdeaconry.
“I have no doubt that the experiences and learning which is done in the context of Belfast will quickly have application across the wider diocese and indeed the Church of Ireland,” the Bishop said.
Bishop George spoke of the importance of safeguarding relationships, welcomed new clergy to the diocese and expressed thanks to various people. He concluded his address by saying it had been ‘a privilege to share in the life of this diocese as your bishop.’
Synod continued with Communications from General Synod, elections and the presentation of the Report of Diocesan Council by the Rev Peter Jones.
Trevor Douglas, Diocesan Development Officer, drew Synod’s attention to a booklet highlighting funding opportunities which has been produced by the diocese, and Christina Baillie, Diocesan Youth Officer, gave an update on events and introduced a new Youth Council initiative, Clusters, which will specifically encourage clergy and leaders.
There was a presentation by Linda Abwa and the Rev Roger Thompson of Church Mission Society Ireland, as Connor’s 15-year partnership with Yei comes to a close next year. Roger highlighted the CMSI and SAMS Voices Together events in August. The value of personal connection, he said, was ‘beyond anything money can buy.’
Diocesan Children’s Ministry Development Officer Victoria Jackson told Synod she had been encouraged and inspired by those working in children’s ministry in the diocese. She encouraged members to avail of the All Aboard Year 3 Sunday School resource.
Motions were passed relating to the Diocesan Financial Scheme, Diocesan Fair Share and Diocesan Regulations, and the Report of Diocesan Council was accepted before Bishop George formally closed the meeting.
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