The Diocese of Down and Dromore was in good heart when it met for the annual Synod in Holywood Parish Church on 20 October 2016.
Addressing members in the twentieth year of his episcopacy, the Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller, was full of appreciation and encouragement as he reviewed the ministry of the diocese.
The bishop noted some of the changes in society, but more particularly, in ministry and leadership, which had occurred since his consecration in 1997.
He compared figures from 1997–2016 and encouraged Synod that the diocese was well positioned for the future with 300 people commissioned and licensed for the work of ministry on a diocesan level.
There continued to be opportunities for curates and a desire in the diocese to invest in fresh new ministries. This year the number of presbyters ordained was the second largest in 20 years and six individuals were likely to begin the Foundation year at CITI – three in their twenties, two in their thirties, and one in their forties.
Bishop Harold also noted that the types and gifting of ‘ministry’ were diversifying and changing, with evangelists and church planters being added at diocesan level, and with parish workers, children and youth workers at local level. Diocesan reader ministry had also entered an exciting new phase with 23 readers recently embarking on the training course.
These realities, said the bishop, corrected the negative picture of a declining and ageing ministry which was all too readily believed, but which ultimately undermined the work of the church.
Looking to the future, Bishop Harold said that to be faithful and effective we needed to discern and release the gifts of the ascended Lord expressed in Ephesians 4:11 – those of apostles, prophets evangelists and pastor–teachers – and went on to speak about each in turn.
He concluded: “I want to say ‘Thank you’ to all who have used their God–given gifts over those nearly twenty years when I have been your overseer. We would not be where we are without your ministry, lay or ordained.”
In Synod business, members approved revised Diocesan Regulations on elections and also agreed that the overall assessment for the Diocesan General Fund in 2017 would be a 2.5% reduction on the figure charged to each parish in 2016.
Synod members heard that the review and restructuring of the diocesan administration was nearing completion. The process was undertaken by the Joint Committee of the Diocese of Connor and the Diocese of Down and Dromore and Hon Lay Secretary (Down), Dr Elizabeth Leonard, acknowledged that it had been lengthy and difficult for all involved.
For the first time, Holy Communion was celebrated after the morning’s business and we were delighted to welcome Bishop Dan Herzog from Albany Diocese as the preacher.
After lunch, Synod heard three presentations: Historian and parishioner of Ballylesson, Dr Brian Walker, shared six intriguing little–known facts about 1916 while Julie Currie took to the podium with a copy of the recently completed and printed Year 1 Jigsaw Curriculum.
The final presentation came from Matt Peach, a member of the Board of Directors of the Kilbroney Centre in Rostrevor. Matt commended the refurbished centre’s ministry, reporting that it hosted over 1000 young people and 200 adults each year. He urged members to use it for retreats, youth weekends, staff training days etc. and also launched a giving partnership scheme to help ensure the future of this excellent facility.
In the Methodist tradition of a ‘Conversation on the Work of God’, time was also set aside to allow members to share encouragements from their local situations and many took the opportunity to do so.
Special guests at Synod included MPs Lady Sylvia Hermon and Gavin Robinson, Gordon Dunne MLA, Alderman Deborah Girvin, Mayor of Ards and North Down and representatives from local churches.