The Synod was held at High Cross URC, Tottenham and we were welcomed by the minister, Revd. Dr. John Campbell. High Cross Church belongs to the South Lea Valley Group of Churches and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, so it was fitting Synod should be held there. John Campbell led the opening worship with a hymn he had written himself.
After an introduction by the Moderator, the Revd Andrew Prasad, we moved on to the business part of the meeting. Revd James Fields was inducted as Synod Pastoral Consultant/ Interim Minister and he was re-appointed as Convenor of the Pastoral Committee. Revd Jane Weedon was re-appointed as Convenor of the Discipleship Committee and Revd Dr. John Wise was re-appointed as Convenor of the Resources Committee. Mrs Bridget Akinyombo of Trinity URC, Slough, had been appointed to Synod Executive.
Simon Rudiger, who was Children and Youth Development Officer, left Thames North Synod at the end of August to work for the YMCA in Hertfordshire. Simon had been very supportive of youth work in the Forest Group. His successor has not yet been appointed.
The Treasurer, Tony Obi-Ezekpazu, presented the audited accounts for 2017 and the budget for 2019. He explained that expenditure in 2017 was greater than in the previous year, due mainly to mission grants such as to the church in Newham. After some questions and answers, the accounts and budget were approved by Synod.
Adeyfield church in Hemel Hempstead, which was granted Synod funding in 2015 of £500,000 now requires more funding for its building project, due to price increases. The request for more money from Synod was agreed during the afternoon session, so long as the church itself does some more fundraising. We then had a ten minute discussion in our table groups on the proposed changes to the M&M formula. It was generally agreed that we should stay with the formula as it is.
General Assembly which had met in Nottingham in July, had referred some matters to Synods for approval, among them who should attend Assembly and the promises made by Elders at their induction. No objections were raised by Synod to the changes made at Assembly.
A new URC Complaints Procedure has been put in place and copies of this had been distributed to members of Synod for their perusal. A Big Foot from General Assembly’s focus on Walking the Way was presented to the Moderator who will take it around to the churches he visits in the Synod.
Following substantial redevelopment, Upper Clapton URC will be having its Rededication Service on 21st April 2019.
URC Youth Assembly will take place from 18th - 20th January at Whitemoor Lakes in Staffordshire. Funding from Synod is available for young people who wish to attend.
Anne Sardeson next introduced a new pre-lunch activity – an urban Prayer Walk. She explained that if we were able, we should go outside for half an hour into the busy streets of Tottenham for a walk, looking around us mindfully, observing the environment and the activities there and maybe praying about them. Most of us did this, and it was a welcome break, walking in the autumn sunshine and drinking in the atmosphere around our meeting.
The afternoon session began with a Gathering Song, written and led by Anne Sardeson. Then, Alison Gray a lecturer from Westminster College, told us about some of the courses and study days which are held there, encouraging us to visit or even stay there. Workshops and Ecumenical Bible Study Days are available for church groups as are Quiet Days. Resources for lay leaders can now be accessed from the Westminster College website and the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion is on the campus. Funding for attending events at Westminster College, up to £350 per year is available form Synod. Anne Sardeson gave us an update on TLS and Stepwise, which will replace it. Churches should register if they want to get involved with Stepwise, which will start in September 2019. TLS Lite will still be available for people who want to become accredited as lay preachers.
Preachers’ Circle is being launched on the URC website and will be updated each week. Francis Ackroyd gave out TLS certificates to several students, including Joan Manning, who had successfully completed Gateways into Worship Pathway 2.
News from the churches followed. Hampstead Garden Suburb URC has now joined the North London Area Group and June Colley then told us movingly about the final URC service held at Ray Lodge URC and its decision to amalgamate from 1st August with Woodford Green URC. This was approved by Synod as was the amalgamation of St. Andrew’s Borehamwood with Chesterfield Road URC from 1st January 2019.
After that, Francis Ackroyd told us about the Home Office policy of revoking ministers’ visas. Visas are now being denied to people from countries outside the EU who wish to volunteer for Christian organisations such as Time for God. Their valuable work of developing understanding of different cultures and nationalities will cease unless action is taken. Time for God can be contacted by visiting their website and giving them support as they protest against the government’s actions in this matter.
Synod closed at 3.45pm and will reconvene on Saturday 16th March 2019 at Chingford URC.