Diocesan Synod - November 12 2011 - Summary
Making the most of our church buildings for our communities
St Mary the Virgin Ashford, a church that has recently undergone a £1.3M re-ordering project to create a shared space for worship and the arts, appropriately hosted the November Synod with the topic of using church buildings for community use.
Tony Baldry MP
Following worship with a Malagasy hymn and Bishop Trevor's introduction, the Second Estates Church Commissioner and Oxford MP Tony Baldry took to the podium. In thirty minutes he described his recent visit to the Diocese and his knowledge of Diocesan church community projects in Harty and Holy Trinity Margate and tourism initiatives at St Peter's Broadstairs and Sandwich.
Mr Baldry, whilst clearly being enthusiastic about creatively using church buildings, conceded that altering buildings for additional community use can be 'daunting' for congregations. The ecclesiastical faculty system, Mr Baldry said, was not there to prevent developments, but to help the congregation with mission opportunities for local people. Mr Baldry pointed out that much help is available from Canterbury's DAC, from Church House Westminster and from organisations such as Church Care. Emphasising that a balance must be struck between preserving historic buildings, offering worship and serving communities in new ways, Mr Baldry concluded: "We need to ensure the Church of England is a national church and a living church."
Revd Maggie Durran, Church Times Columnist
Mrs Durran, an author who has published books on church buildings, spent thirty minutes providing solid and practical advice for parishes considering re-ordering projects. Mrs Durran argued that preparation was key, saying that parish teams should: "Measure twice, think twice and pray twice" before doing anything. Mrs Durran outlined eight helpful steps which include auditing local needs, considering the resource implications of the project and its running/staffing costs once completed, fundraising and project management. Mrs Durran's notes can be found at: www.canterburydiocese.org/\diocesansynodnews\november2011\MaggieDurransnotes.doc
After Rebecca Chantler , of Ecclesiastic Insurance spoke about church security, synod heard four short presentations from parishes who are providing community services. Canon Colin Preece outlined the rationale and work undertaken to create a shared space for worship and the arts at St Mary's, referring to the theology of 'shared space'. Revd Nigel Hale of Goodnestone, described the simple re-ordering project which led to a Post Office being housed in the church twice a week, and how the local community have slowly come to value this partnership. Reader, Judy Vinson, told the story of the farmers' market at Rolvenden , the tensions in the village with the competing 'village market' and village shop but also the opportunity to reinforce the message to a community that this is 'their church'. Finally Canon Caroline Pinchbeck outlined work underway to create a spiritual heritage tourist attraction in Sandwich, in partnership with many local agencies and denominations.
Over lunch, members were encouraged to visit the 'Market Place' - a number of stands with information relevant to church buildings. After lunch, the Venerable Stephen Taylor led a question and answer session which picked up on issues raised during the morning; contributions were made from the Commissary General, Miss Morag Ellis, DAC Secretary, Ian Dodd and Bishop Trevor.
Synod then turned their attention to the business, which included a question from Harry MacDonald about how churches might become more welcoming to families with specific reference to liturgy. Archdeacon Philip answered, referring synod to the Bishop's desire to look at 'church hospitality' as a Diocese in 2012.
Synod debated the election and system of representation for the 2012-15 synod, voting against an amendment proposed by John Corbyn which called for the 15 ex-officio places taken by Area Deans to be replaced with 15 elected clergy representatives. Synod approved the amendment to Deanery Synod rules which limits the term of office for Lay Chairs to six years and also approved changes to the standing orders of Diocesan Synod.