Diocesan Synod 2011Wednesday 29 June 2011
Down and Dromore's Diocesan Synod was held on 28th June in the new Seagoe Parish Centre, Portadown.
Revd Ruth Patterson, of Restoration Ministries, preached at the Holy Communion service in St Gobhan’s before coffee was served both inside the centre and outside in the sunshine.
Money was the main theme of Bishop Harold’s Presidential Address. He acknowledged that this was an unusual topic but, "money and mission always go hand in hand" and the subject was reflective of the material being presented to this year’s Synod.
The Bishop outlined the diocesan finances but reiterated his belief that, “the parish or fresh expression is always, always, always the coal-face of ministry and mission, pastoral care and teaching - and finances.” Thanking parishes for their faithful giving, Bishop Harold went on to remind Synod of the early church’s transformative attitude to money in Acts 2.
The Bishop urged Synod members as leaders in the diocese to respond on the issue of finance, challenging them to:
“Decide here and now to give a tenth of all you have to the work of the Kingdom of God” and “lead your church leaders to do likewise.”
“Review your church giving on the basis of discipling Christians in the principles of proportionate giving so that the vision of the church can be fulfilled.”
“Enable your church to ask what God is calling it to do in and for the community.” That,” he said, "is what stops finances being simply what keeps the church going, and that is what energizes churches and opens people’s pockets: that fact that we are agents of the Kingdom of God in a transformative way in the places we are set.”
In these difficult economic times, Bishop Harold thanked the diocese for its 'decision of faith’ in employing a new Children’s Development Officer, Julie Currie, and for supporting The Dock initiative in the Titanic Quarter. He also commended the ‘critically important’ and timely Poverty Report, ‘On Our Doorstep’ which was presented during the afternoon session.
In the latter part of his address, Bishop Harold turned to the profoundly shocking events in East Belfast last week. He called upon the government to stop dragging its heels and advance the Shared Future agenda as a matter of priority.
“There is a real and absolute priority in moving forward the Shared Future agenda,” he said. “OFMDFM asked everyone to respond to their document Cohesion, Sharing and Integration, and the Church of Ireland did - in a robust and critical way. Eight months later, I still cannot find even the contents of the responses on the OFMDFM website, let alone any analysis of them, or any sense of direction for the future. The government is dragging its heels at a time when we desperately need to build a different kind of community, especially in interface areas.”
Bishop Harold also challenged the power of the paramilitaries which, “seeks to control communities through fear and intimidation.”
The Bishop concluded his address by thanking his own clergy for their engagement with the situation and reiterated that, “The Church of Ireland is committed to inner city areas, and will continue to develop its ministry in the heart of East Belfast.”
Also during the morning session, in the year of the 900th anniversary of the Synod of Rathbreasil, Honorary Lay Secretary, Mr Fred Rankin, presented framed copies of the official, reconfirmed arms of the Diocese of Down and Dromore to the Cathedral Deans. A presentation Bible was given to Dr Susan Hood of the RCB Library in acknowledgement of her invaluable help throughout the process.
Canon Lady Shiel also took the opportunity to congratulate, on behalf of Synod, Honorary Secretary, Revd John McDowell, on his appointment as Bishop of Clogher. He will be sadly missed in the diocese.
In the afternoon, the Synod heard a report from Children’s Development Officer, Julie Currie and Jane Corbett gave a presentation on our link diocese of Maridi in Southern Sudan.
After, ‘A Conversation on the Work of God,’ the Synod ended with afternoon tea.
View a few more photos on Flickr here.