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Diocesan Synod - 5 Oct 2013: A report
Tuesday 8 October 2013
On a rather chilly October morning, members of the Norwich Diocesan Synod gathered at Neatherd High School in Dereham.
New Chair of the House of Laity
Before Synod got underway, members of the house of laity assembled to hear from two candidates put forward to take on the role of Chair of the House of Laity and Lay Vice President. The group heard from Dr Jan Sexton and Miss Cynthia Wake. After the hustings, a vote was taken (alongside postal votes which had already been made) and the votes were counted. Miss Cynthia Wake was elected as the new Chair of the House of Laity for the Diocese of Norwich.
At 9.30 Synod began with a welcome from The Revd Sally Theakston and an opening prayer from Mervyn Wilcox. The minutes of the previous synod were reviewed and 2 amendments were submitted. An update on Women Bishops
The Bishop of Norwich, The Rt Revd Graham James addressed Synod with an update on Women Bishops legislation. He told Synod of a new established steering committee which is reporting to General Synod. This group is being chaired by the Bishop of Rochester, The Right Revd James Langstaff. Bishop Graham stated that whatever new legislation is proposed, it will be much simpler than what is currently in place. Great consideration is also being given to how to care for those who oppose Women Bishops. A larger committee is being created that includes members for and against Women Bishops with the intention of them working together to find a way forward. Proposed legislation would be presented to this group before being presented to Synod to ensure all viewpoints are covered.
After Bishop Graham had finished his presentation, Synod moved on to the next item on the agenda – a debate following a motion received from the Repps Deanery. The original motion is as follows: "In the light of the November 2012 vote on Women in the Episcopate, this Synod believes there should be a review of voting procedures, and calls on General Synod to review these procedures, especially for Article 8 business, for matters that affect the doctrine and practice of the Church of England."
Mary Howard from the Repps Deanery proposed the motion explaining that this had come from a feeling that lay people felt disappointed and unrepresented at General Synod. She said it was felt that the vote at General Synod didn’t reflect the views of the parishes. She wanted to stress however that this was an issue over electoral procedures not Women Bishops.
This led to an open debate amongst Synod members with many speaking for and against the motion. Bishop Graham brought the debate to a close suggesting that instead of submitting this motion to General Synod, a letter be sent to the Secretary General of General Synod for consideration which detailed the views held by Diocesan Synod members which could be included in existing national reviews. After a short break for refreshments, the wording was decided and the motion was passed. The wording for the motion is as follows:
“In light of the November 2012 General Synod vote on Women Bishops in the episcopate this Diocesan Synod resolves that the concerns expressed in out debate regarding voting procedures for Article 8 business (matters that affect the doctrine and practices of the Church of England) be sent to the Secretary General of the General Synod for consideration alongside other reviews."
The challenges facing young people
Two guest speakers were invited to this Synod: Tim Sweeting (Chief Executive of YMCA Norfolk) and Richard Draper (Founder, The Benjamin Foundation). Bishop Graham invited them both to speak about challenges facing young people in the Diocese reminding us that young people in our parishes may be fractured and hurting and they are not excluded from the issues nationally.
Tim Sweeting spoke of the passion he has to see young people thrive. He told Synod that young people are very different from the media image given about them. He said they have energy and hope for the future, but what they don’t have is opportunities. He feels that the YMCA’s job is to provide those opportunities. He went on to speak of the main issues he felt lead to homelessness, unemployment and low self-esteem:
Social issues – family break-downs, lack of role models and positive relationships
Societal issues – children encouraged to grown up too quickly, academic pressures, celebrity culture, social media
Structural issues – lack of career guidance / work experience / youth services.
Mr Sweeting then went on to talk of the work that YMCA Norfolk does providing safety, acceptance and support through work in schools, families, detached youth work, fitness groups, community cafes and counselling services.
Richard Draper then spoke of how the Benjamin Foundation came into being through the loss of his son and how this motivated him to make a difference. Until 2007 the work of the Benjamin Foundation focussed on North Norfolk, but now the charity works county-wide. He then talked of the various things the charity does including:
• 0-5 early years work • Early support – providing emotional support to young people in 70 schools • Early Help – supporting families in 60 schools • A programme to work with vulnerable young people • A drop-in centre in Thetford • Supported accommodation centres for 16-25 yr olds • Supported Lodgings (working with the YMCA) • Youth Advisory Boards • Furniture Recycling stores • Training and support services.
He felt there were four things to consider when working with young people:
Opportunity – Children leaving schools with academic results, but underprepared for the real world
Community – How do we create a sense of community for young people?
Cuts – whilst cuts need to be made, are they being made in the right areas?
After both presentations, discussion time was given where people broke out into small groups to discuss how the church can make a difference. Support was shown for both organisations and willingness shown for collaboration. Huge thanks were given for the presentations for challenging perceptions and raising awareness of the issues facing young people today.
News from the Deanery of Repps
The Revd David Court was then invited to bring news from the Deanery of Repps. He gave an overview of what has been happening in the Deanery including numbers of congregations and young people. He stated that whilst numbers were on the rise during mid-week activities there were worries of decline in Sunday attendance due to the demographic of the area. Commemorating the First World War
The Revd Nick Garrard then spoke about the First World War Commemorations. He asked Synod to consider what deaneries and parishes could do to mark the anniversary of the War. He encouraged Synod to engage with local people to discover family memories, items of heritage and stories from the parishes. He encouraged clergy to find out what history is in our churches. It is hoped that each church will mark the anniversary of the War in some way, and this could coincide with Open Churches Week in 2014. More information on this will follow – keep checking the Diocese of Norwich website.
There were no questions under Standing Order 71, and so Synod was brought to a close by Bishop Graham with a prayer and blessing.