Synod meeting at Jesmond, March 19th 2016
Our synod meeting was themed around the theology of money. Jesmond URC’s opening worship included images of churches in Mozambique celebrating and dancing as they gave their offerings. The reading was from Matthew 6:24, teaching that we cannot serve both God and money.
Moderator Revd Lis Mullen closed her last Synod meeting with us by leading a communion service. The worship included hymns and readings to encourage a personal commitment to follow Christ in all that we do.
Revd Dr Kevin Snyman led our Bible study. He suggested we are trapped in a consumerist society, in which shopping replaces faith. He said churches can step away from this and encouraged us to re-read the gospels to see how Jesus challenged and was not drawn in to the monetary system of the day. He suggested our understanding of relationships is underpinned by a philosophy of worth defined in monetary terms, which is destroying community, giving and sharing.
Kevin explained how our language is embroiled with trading images; we talk of being redeemed, of Jesus paying for our sins and debts being paid. He concluded with practical suggestions to embrace a spirit of generosity, to free share, give assets without expecting reward, and consider negative interest rates when loaning money to break the cycle of debt.
The Denomination, Synod and Ministry
Our Bible study served as a basis upon which to consider how the synod may choose to use its resources. We heard from Revd Dr Tony Haws the Synod Treasurer, that we have resources available to us and the option to use the money that the Trust has stewarded so well on synod’s behalf. He said that we may not wish to be a cash rich synod with empty churches and that perhaps the Synod has reached a tipping point.
We broke into discussion groups to consider Tony’s message and synod members sought to discern what may be the right way forward.
We heard from each of our committees, and appointed people for lay presidency. We wish them well in their roles.
Synod also considered the Trust’s Ethical Investment policy and requested withdrawing our investments in Diageo.
We confirmed nominations for our General Assembly Representatives, and agreed the updated Safeguarding policy: https://urc-northernsynod.org/safeguarding
The Difference We Can Make
Yvonne Hall from St. Antony’s Priory told us about a scheme the synod has funded and which makes a huge difference to people seeking to break from addictions. Yvonne gave thanks for the Synod’s generosity.
The Synod Way Forward
Lis explained how the numbers of ministers is reducing and in our synod this will be compounded by a number of retirements over the next 18 months. Lis said that by 2017 we will have up to 16 churches without a minister, and showed how by 2018-2020 we may have over 21 churches without an ordained minister of word and sacrament. The situation as we know it now is not sustainable and something will have to change. Lis encouraged Synod by saying that change can be a way to see things afresh. She said that she is visiting each minister in the synod after Easter to learn more about what change may mean from their perspective. Synod agreed an enabling resolution to explore new patterns of ministry, to consider ways to develop our congregations by using synod resources to pay for training and for lay workers too. Lis will share the information she gave to Synod in her next newsletter for church magazines.
TLS and Other News
Chris Eddowes updated us with the changes to TLS. Please contact Chris for full details.
Daphne Clark told Synod about the Donor Experience Commission which she is closely involved in including her surprise appearance on the BBC’s One Show.
Diane Whaley gave information about the Shared Interests scheme which is the largest Fair Trade lending scheme in the world. Based in Newcastle and developed from Traidcraft, they offer a safe way to invest up to £100,000.
The money goes directly to people in the developing world, for whom additional finance will make all the difference to their prospects
The Northerly Synods continue to work closely. They are developing a service to walk alongside churches in conflict and more assistance to help churches stay up to date with employment regulations. Lis explained how the URC will be conducting a Past Case Review. People who feel they have been abused or harmed by the church will be invited to come forward.
We heard updates from Grindon and Keld. We are all invited to make use of Keld; it is a synod resource and its lovely centre and countryside are there to be used by us all.
Mel explained that we had not made an appointment in March and the post for Moderator is advertised in Reform. Interviews have been arranged for May 27th.
Dates for your Diary
Open Day at the Moderator’s home on July 2nd. So come along for a strawberry cream tea and raise money for Mozambique too!
Lis’ leaving service will be held on Saturday 16th July at St Margaret’s South Shields. The service starts at 4.00 p.m. and will be followed by a ceilidh and bar-be-que so we can celebrate in style! Dr Peter Clarke led Synod in its thanks to Lis for all she has done.