Guest speaker at the annual Diocese of Connor Synod was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, The Most Rev Eamon Martin.
He spoke inspirationally about re-imagining church in the present culture and the need to take risks and ‘get out there.’
“The people we really need to reach are on the periphery, on the margins, they are not coming in to meet us,” he said.
“All of us in the church have found this exciting but also disturbing. We are used to doing what we do. If we have to do more it tends to be for the people with us already. The challenge is to leave them there and go out on the margins.”
He spoke about the different forms of poverty in the world – economic poverty, cultural poverty, spiritual poverty, and poverty of relationships. “We need to write into today’s world the mercy of God, that is one way of re-imagining what we are about,” Archbishop Martin told Synod.
“My challenge is to evaluate our parish structures and the way we are doing things in the light of mission. We have to re-examine our language and one way of doing that is to speak and write with the mercy of God.”
Archbishop Martin was joined by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, as the floor was open to questions.
Bishop Abernethy also welcomed the Most Rev Noel, Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, who attended the evening session of Synod.
Earlier in the evening, members watched a video showing how three Connor parishes are doing very different – and innovative – things to connect with the communities they serve.
Featured parishes were St Jude’s, Muckamore, which among other things organises a festival during the week of the annual Eleventh Night Bonfire; Ballymoney Parish which has refurbished its old Schoolhouse and now runs a monthly contemporary worship there as well as Christians Against Poverty; and St Aidan’s in Sandy Row which runs a thriving charity shop and a vibrant Messy Church.
During the afternoon business session, members stood for a minute’s silence in respect of the late Canon Edgar Turner, Connor’s Senior Registrar, who died in April at the age of 96. The silent tribute came before Registrar Canon William Taggart read communications from General Synod, something Canon Turner had done for many Synods previously.
Among the visitors at this year’s Synod was David Ritchie, Chief Officer of the RCB (Representative Church Body) who is touring all diocesan synods as he familiarises himself with dioceses and parishes in this his first year in the job.
Bishop Abernethy’s Presidential Address.