Business at the 2007 Connor Diocesan Synod was concluded in record time, with all motions and reports heard and passed before dinner.
During the course of the afternoon on Thursday October 11, Synod members, totalling around 350, agreed to the introduction of postal voting for a trial period, and the restructuring of rural deaneries within the diocese.
After an exceptionally interesting presentation from Archdeacon Stephen Forde, on behalf of the Council for Mission, Synod also agreed to a partnership project with Connor’s link diocese of Yei in southern Sudan.
Under the Yei Schools Project, parishes will be encouraged to raise funds to complete the building of a much-needed new school in the rural town of Mongo. The target is £80,000.
Prior to the commencement of business, a Service of Holy Communion took place. During the afternoon, reports of Boards and Committees were presented, as well as the Notices of Motion.
In his first presidential address as Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy stressed the importance of safeguarding planet Earth and of valuing both children and elderly people within a parish.
He spoke of his desire to make spirituality a priority in his ministry, and of the need to re-engage with a society that may consider the church to be past its sell-by date.
The former rector of Ballyholme parish told Synod that for the last 26 years he had served in parish ministry and knew the joys and sorrows that service brings. “I understand the loneliness of leadership and the cost of caring for others. Ordained ministry is an amazing privilege but it is not without a great cost. I understand that the one negative and hurtful comment can haunt and be lost amidst the many words of encouragement. I want to be there for those who carry the burden and heat of the day,” the Bishop said.
He remembered the Rev Tom Priestly, who died in August, and asked Synod to pray for Mr Priestly’s family and for his parish of St Colman’s, Dunmurry. A silence was observed.
Looking to the future, the Bishop said: “We need to move from maintenance mode to mission and this will present new challenges and opportunities. In my lifetime society has changed dramatically and we need to find new ways of engaging and connecting with a society that can see us as past our sell-by date.”
Highlighting his desire to make spirituality a priority in ministry, the Bishop said that during Lent he intended to lead special evenings on the subject of prayer.
As Bishop, he said he wanted to stimulate discussion on how the church values the children it is responsible for, and how they can be incorporated into parish life and worship. “I have often emphasised our ministry to young people but I am now even more concerned about our ministry to and with children who become our young people,” Bishop Abernethy said.
The church also needs to find ways of ensuring it does not lose sight of its older members who have served the church faithfully for many years, the Bishop stated.
Tackling the issue of climate change, he said: “Increasingly we are becoming more and more aware of the wonder and yet the unravelling of some of the complex and interdependent aspects of planet Earth.
“I want to commend to you the work of Christian Aid as they seek to bring to our attention the need to do something to encourage government to meet their targets for cutting carbon emissions and to help us all realise there are things we can do everyday to help protect planet Earth.”
The Bishop expressed his enthusiasm for Connor’s diocesan link with the Diocese of Yei in Southern Sudan, established at last year’s Synod. “We have much to learn from people who appear to have so little and yet have so much of the joy of the Lord,” he said.
Following business guests enjoyed a meal in the hotel before returning their their various parts of the diocese.