Our time together was punctuated by prayer throughout the day. Worship led by Revds Gordon and Elaine Brown opened our day themed round ecological and social justice, with readings from Matthew 6: 25-34.
We prayed for Andy Lie, our Ecumenical Officer, who is soon to depart for Palestine to participate in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. We wish Andy a peaceful and safe return.
Our afternoon opened with congratulations to ministers celebrating anniversaries of their ordination and we, can make a significant difference.
Dr Andrew Bradstock, led our Bible study illustrating how environmental and social justice are expressions of our faith.
This theme was extended by Dr Sarah Moon, coordinator for Christian Aid in Northumberland. Sarah used films and practical illustrations to demonstrate the harm caused by fossil fuels and Western lifestyles upon other peoples, and distant ecologies, as well as those closer to home.
Lis shared the feedback from churches following the Synod Thinking Day. This event, held in February this year, incorporates our response to wider discussions about “What is the Spirit saying to the churches?” Lis said that, as our scoping reduces in future years, we will need to find ways to use our resources to support ministers, perhaps with lay workers, providing a team to help with pastoral and outreach work in communities.
We made decisions which will affect our life together as churches in Northern Synod. We agreed to make Partners in Mission grants to “Staying Alive”, an ecumenical youth project in Northumberland, supported by URC minister Revd Ed Butlin; and to the work of St Antony’s Priory in Durham, which supports people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
We affirmed the Trust budget, and debated how we ensure we invest ethically. There was support for considering whether we should continue to invest in fossil fuels and alcohol at our March 2016 Synod meeting.
Refugees – Emergency Resolution
Synod agreed to lobby Government over the plight of refugees, demanding a fairer, more positive and welcoming response from our nation.
Marriage of Same-Sex Couples
Synod raised no objection to the resolution from General Assembly. This would confirm that church meetings could decide whether they wished their premises to be registered for marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Mel explained that, with Lis due to leave in July 2016, a trailer advertisement for the post of Northern Synod Moderator had appeared in the October edition of Reform. The full advertisement will be published in November. We anticipate short listing will complete in January 2016, with interviews scheduled for the end of that month.
URC Environmental Policy
Dr Andrew Bradstock, explained the implications of the draft URC Environmental Policy. This sparked discussions about the urgency of acting to address climate change, the extent to which individuals can effect change, and that care for our planet is a reflection of how God cares for us.
Liz Styan from Zion Church, Northallerton, gave some down to earth tips on how to make your church greener. Some helpful resources can be found here – www.ecochurch.org.uk, and also http://arocha.org.uk.
We heard how ministry at St Cuthbert’s Centre is flourishing. Recognising the importance of Holy Island to our Synod, we agreed a new way of working which will be supported by the Trust. There will be new management arrangements, and oversight from Synod Executive, as St Cuthbert’s Centre goes from strength to strength.
You can download a PDF of this News from Synod here.