The Synod was held at Chingford URC, and our Minister, Revd. Ulrike Bell led the Opening Worship and gave a short presentation about the Forest Group of Churches and its mission. After that, we sang the Forest Group Hymn, which Anne Sardeson wrote for us some years ago.
Revd Frances Ackroyd was one of two long-serving ministers who were presented with certificates to commemorate 50 years since their ordination. A message had been received from a minister in Christchurch, New Zealand, where the recent attacks on two mosques had taken place in which forty-nine people were killed. They will be remembered in our prayers.
The 2019 Synod Year Book had recently been published and copies had been given to church secretaries.
Alan Yates, a previous Moderator of General Assembly, then gave a talk on his Visions of the Future – a ten year forecast about the URC.
He predicted membership would shrink by 45% and the number of ministers by 55%. There would only be four Synods and the average size of congregations would be twenty-four. Ministers would have to struggle to look after around seven churches each.
He believes that we should spend more on people, with more missionary and community workers, following the Gospel message of going out and making disciples. We should centralise and spend our wealth. We might not grow in numbers but we will have followed Jesus’ teaching.
We are not a poor church but we behave as if we are. We should pray and be bold. Youth outreach and evangelism were important. The moderator said that Mr Yates’ talk had been inspirational and challenging.
Reports from Synod Committees
James Fields reported from the Pastoral Committee, saying that we have a duty of care to others and ourselves. Bullying within the church was unacceptable and safeguarding was essential.
James Wise from the Resources Committee said Synod grants for training would be considered sympathetically and guidance for applying for Synod Grants could be obtained from the URC website.
Jim Dalgleish gave a report on Walking the Way - Whole Life Discipleship, which churches have been encouraged to follow.
Holy Habits groups have been set up in some churches, and members are growing and learning together.
Learning Hubs are supporting church Leaders and changing the ethos of churches.
Anne Sardeson reported that Stepwise is replacing TLS and is helping individuals to grow in the knowledge of their faith and how to live as people of Christ. A pilot group is being set up this year and a report about it will be given at the next Synod.
Lay preacher training is now given mainly through TLS Lite and Pastoral Training is also taking place. TLS is now finishing, although Gateways into Worship will continue until next year.
There is a vacancy for a Children and Youth Development Officer, and Soo Webster, the chief Pilots Officer is retiring. A new Pilots programme will be coming out in September.
The Synod Treasurer, Tony Obi-Ezekpazu, gave a report on the Synod finances and told us the focus on the use of Synod funds should now be on people, not on property, Applications for Stepwise projects would be welcomed.
Dr. John Parry will be retiring soon and the London Inter Faith Centre at St. Anne’s and St. Andrew’s in North London will be closed, but London Inter Faith Initiatives will continue and James Fields would be pleased to receive news on any interfaith activities going on in the Synod.
After lunch, Dawn Watson, of Thirty- one Eight, formerly known as Churches Child Protection Advisory Service talked about Safeguarding within churches. She emphasised how important this is for churches, saying safeguarding is the responsibility of us all.
Churches should be safe places and policies and procedures for safeguarding should be in place, with DBS checks for Elders and those working with children and vulnerable adults being done every five years.
Groups hiring church premises also should have a safeguarding policy in place and this should be included in any hiring agreement. Some training is being done within the Synod this year.
A final report on the M&M Review was then given by Keith Berry and John Wise.
Questionnaires had been sent out to all the churches in the Synod regarding the formula for calculating contributions. It was agreed that the formula should be amended. However, there was still scope for discussion and Synod agreed with this.
A representative from St. John’s New Barnet URC next brought forward a resolution on Climate Change. This church believes caring for creation is very important and the URC should not be investing in companies connected with fossil fuels.
CCLA who specialise in ethical investments is asking for the opinion of the URC so it can consider the future.
Climate chaos looms and stopping this is in our hands – for example we should use less diesel and gas. Mission Council will discuss this at their meeting in May and bring their recommendations to October Synod.
Terry Hinks led us in Closing Worship before the Synod finished at 3.45pm. It will next meet on Saturday 19th October 2019 at Fairford Leys, hosted by Chiltern Local Area Group.
Chingford URC is to be congratulated on their hard work and efficiency in enabling the Synod to run so smoothly, serving refreshments to so many people and making us very welcome.