General Synod takes place in Belfast

Wednesday May 4th 2022

Bishops take Communion during the Synod Service in Belfast Cathedral.

The first in-person General Synod of the Church of Ireland since 2019 got underway on Wednesday May 4 with a Service of Choral Eucharist in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

The preacher was the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison, who spoke of the challenges of the pandemic in his sermon.

“As we meet together for this General Synod service we do so with joy and a heightened sense of appreciation for the fact that once again, we are able to gather from across the Church of Ireland, for much has changed since General Synod members last shared Holy Communion in St Columb’s Cathedral in Derry in 2019,” Bishop George said.

“Along with the rest of humanity, our Church, our dioceses and parishes saw our pattern of life interrupted unexpectedly as a result of that now infamous global pandemic! We were forced to stop, to cease our regular patterns of activity and to wait patiently for science and medicine to regain the upper hand.

“Happily, amongst all the difficulties, we can tell many positive stories – stories of clergy and congregations demonstrating imagination and innovation as they adapted and sought out new ways to keep connected with parishioners and to reach out in service to the communities around them.”

Bishop George commented that it was quite remarkable that only four dioceses in the whole Church of Ireland have the same bishop that they had when General Synod last met in person!

And he spoke of the ‘stocktaking’ happening across the Church in the wake of Covid-19. You can download Bishop George’s full sermon HERE.

Following the service, members made their way to Assembly Buildings where the business of Synod will take place from Wednesday until Friday.

Archbishop John McDowell delivers his Presidential Address.

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Rev John McDowell, delivered his Presidential Address to a packed Synod Hall before lunch on Wednesday.

Archbishop McDowell said that the Church did its best when faced with the unique circumstances of Covid-19, and thanked everyone who has ‘worked so hard to get us to where we are now,’ two years on from the early days of the pandemic.

Archbishop McDowell also:

  • Called for civic society to ‘encourage and struggle for the common good in partnership with those who govern,’ following the ‘atomisation of public space’ – a trend related to how social media has developed in recent years.
  • Affirmed that ‘the backbone of the Church of Ireland throughout this island is the rural parish’ and that the Church has a role in working with people in rural communities as we respond to the challenges of climate change.
  • Reported on the initial findings of the ethnic diversity, inclusion and racial justice research project which he had announced at the previous General Synod in September 2021, and the need to help people find a place at home in the Church in a world of migration.
  • Spoke about the ‘distinctive contribution to reconciliation’ which members of the Church make as disciples of Jesus Christ, including through engaging with other agencies and groups in society, encouraging people ‘who seek to bring wholeness to lives that are very damaged and usually overlooked,’ and having an environment in which self-examination of our influences can take place.

He stated: “We should be clear in everything that we say publicly and privately that we are contributing to the discussion and achievement of a reconciled society as Jesus’ disciples.” 

The Archbishop added that the Christian experience of reconciliation is not transactional: “It is not a case of me bringing my change of heart to God, which he then is almost obliged to reward by forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the presence of Jesus that creates my change of heart and I am his debtor for my repentance as for everything else in those transforming experiences and encounters,” he said.

The address concluded with an appeal to Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, to help to bring the war in Ukraine to a just end, before the Archbishop led the members of General Synod in a prayer for peace in solidarity with the Government and the people of Ukraine.

Full text of Archbishop McDowell’s Presidential Address.

On Wednesday and Thursday of General Synod, the Parish of St Stephen’s, Belfast, hosted lunch for Synod members, and, and you will see in our gallery below, we caught up with the volunteers providing the spread, and some of those who enjoyed the food on offer on Thursday lunchtime.

You can keep up to date with all the news from General Synod on the Church of Ireland website.

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