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News from the Synod meeting (November 2019)

Dear Friends

Yesterday, Chris Hyland and I went to the October Synod meeting at Bridgewater URC, which was well attended by representatives from churches throughout the SW Synod. The church is relatively modern and lends itself well to an informal café-style layout to accommodate about a hundred people – I still can’t resist a quick head-count! The day was admirably led by Ruth Whitehead, who has the knack of making potentially tedious business matters into an interesting exchange of ideas. Opening and closing worship encircled the day with uplifting praise and reflective prayer.

It was interesting to hear, in the financial report, details of the Synod’s income and expenditure - and to know that the accounts are balanced and sustainable! The URC are committed to avoiding investment in companies involved in fossil fuel extraction, encouraging churches to use CCLA Ethical Investment and to reduce fuel usage as much as possible. The true cost of ministry, nationally, has risen to £38,000 per annum, excluding the cost of housing provision. The Treasurer expressed his gratitude to those churches who, like ours, feel able to contribute more than their Ministry and Mission contribution as calculated by the Synod.

The Pastoral committee reported that we have 23 full-time equivalent ministers in the Synod, overseeing 108 churches.  That puts our new joint pastorate into perspective, doesn’t it? Those authorised to preside at communion in the absence of an ordained minister will in future stay on a list for three years rather than just one: our thanks should go to Joan Gunn for taking the training to be a part of that list.

The URC regularly up-date their Environmental Policy and we heard from a ‘Green Apostle’ (!) about the current level of Eco Church Awards – 25% of churches in the SW Synod are now registered, including Thornbury and Trinity-Henleaze, but only one has achieved a Gold level so far.

We were reminded that as Christians we are challenged to be ‘stewards of the earth’ and a ‘light to the world’, and that responsibility is also ours as individuals. No matter how small any life-style changes we make can seem, they all contribute to the future of our planet.

It was good to hear Tracey give a brief, but moving, report on her most recent visit to Israel/Palestine with representatives from other URC Synods. She will be speaking at greater length at the meeting in March, when the SW Synod will consider their response to the on-going situation. In the meantime, she has offered to speak at any church in the Synod, including ours. She sends her love to you all and admitted that it still felt strange to introduce herself at meetings as ‘Revd Tracey Lewis from Wiltshire’!

Discussions after lunch brought out so many ideas of ways in which churches could work with their local communities. Being the URC, many included food, of course! Community lunches, regular coffee mornings, music and singing featured across the Synod.

Open discussions on contemporary concerns like climate change; practical professional help and support; involvement with groups using our buildings; publicising events……….the list was endless and very encouraging.

So, if you’re invited to represent our church at a future Synod, do say ‘yes’ - it might not be as boring as it sounds

Marian Gardener