The Diocese of Connor unveiled a new vision for the future of ministry at its annual synod held in Ballymena on October 13.
The Vision Strategy took into consideration changing culture and society, focusing on areas including the context and communities in which parishes minister, increasing secularization, and advances in technology.
More than 300 clergy and lay members of the Synod, which met in the Braid Centre following Holy Communion and dinner in St Patrick’s Church, heard the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, express a concern that the church has ‘lost credibility.’
In his Presidential Address, the Bishop stated: “We at times have become inward looking and because of our circumstances we have been absorbed in survival.”
He went on: “It is in
triguing that Jesus didn’t fix the chaos of the world but he lived in it and by example trained others to make a difference. That is why I have come to believe that one of the most important thoughts for our vision and strategy is that of connection.”
Bishop Abernethy told Synod: “Today is a day when we need to look to the future. We need to focus on setting a vision. To rediscover our confidence, not to talk about decline and closure but about incarnation and resurrection.”
The Bishop split his address into three parts. In the second part he introduced a presentation on the Vision Strategy.
“I want to encourage us all to celebrate what we have but also to be willing to examine what we need to do to find a shared vision for the future. We have so much to give to each other and to learn from each other and we have the calling to be salt and light in a culture and society that has lost trust in church,” the Bishop said.
In the presentation Synod heard the 93 per cent reply rate from parishes was ‘remarkable,’ and an indication of a growing sense of belonging in the diocese.
Positive outcomes included the findings that in the past five years the majority of parishes have tried some form of new programme or ministry; and on average 12,500 people are in church each Sunday in Connor Diocese.
But difficulties common among the majority of parishes were also identified.
Synod was told that the diocese would provide resources and opportunities to support what is happening at parish level, and that, with an almost complete return rate, parishes should realise they are not in this alone.
During the course of the three hour Synod, Reports of Diocesan Council, Boards and Committees were all agreed. Two Notices of Motion, one relating to changes in the representation and structures of Diocesan Council and committees, and one relating to the Diocesan General Fund Assessment 2011, were passed.
Mr Ronnie Briggs of Church Mission Society Ireland (CMSI) made a presentation on the Society’s new Discovery resource, and Mr Richard Ryan, manager of the Good Book Shop, thanked the people of Connor for their support over the past year, saying he was ‘confident, encouraged and excited’ by the future.
Bishop Abernethy drew Synod to a close with a final endorsement of the Vision Strategy. He referred to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “The best part of this story is that Jesus journeyed with them even though they were confused and uncertain about the future.
“Let’s go forward with Him believing and knowing that He is with us.”
For more photographs of Synod 2011 click here.