Full report of Connor Diocesan Synod 2024

Monday June 17th 2024

Bishop George Davison and Finance and Administration Manager Richard Cotter during the business of Synod.

Connor Diocesan Synod 2024 was held in Christ Church, Lisburn, on Thursday June 13.

It was preceded by a Service of Holy Communion, led by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison, with the rector of Christ Church, the Ven Paul Dundas, Archdeacon of Dalriada, preaching.

Synod opened with a Scripture reading by Gillian McCaughey, Belfast Cathedral, and prayers led by the Rev Andrew Irwin, St Paul and St Barnabas.

Bishop George then delivered his Presidential Address which is reported fully at this LINK.


Standing Orders were suspended for a presentation by Hilary McClay, Education Advisor to the Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal. Thanking representatives of parishes present for their generosity towards the Appeal, Mrs McClay outlined different projects that had been supported – saying how girls in Uganda were able to continue their education through the provision of separate changing facilities, and how families in Ukraine had been supported on the ground by Habitat for Humanity, working with Bishops’ Appeal. She spoke about successful literacy and numeracy projects in Burundi and about the provision of mattresses for displaced people in Lebanon, working through Tear Fund; and a silk project in Madagascar, allowing those whose previous living producing charcoal had been decimated due to deforestation.

She described Bishops Appeal as ‘a vehicle which sends grants to where they are needed through trusted partners on the ground.’

“We really are able to show the kindness of Jesus where it is really needed to those who need to know that he cares and that his people care too,” Mrs McClay said.

Referencing the Motion passed at Church of Ireland General Synod in May, which recognised the significant part that the Fairtrade Foundation has played in raising awareness of the challenges facing farming communities in many parts of the world, she said buying Fair Trade was a way of making a difference and presented Bishop George with a basket of Fair Trade items.”

Thanking Mrs McClay for her presentation, the Bishop reminded Synod that ‘we are part of a worldwide family and we are called to make a difference worldwide.’

The report of Connor Diocesan Council was proposed by the Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, who commented that this was the first time in 37 years he had been asked to present the report.


Asking how the church in the Diocese of Connor might be fit and prepared to offer mission and ministry in another 37 years’ time, he said: “It is through this lens of preparing our church today to be God’s presence and God’s people for the next generation that we should consider this Diocesan Report.”

He said that among the most positive sections of this year’s report were those on Youth Ministry, submitted by Youth Officer; Christina Baillie; the Youth Council Report, submitted by the Rev Danielle McCullough; the Connor Children’s Ministry report, submitted by Victoria Jackson; and The North Belfast Centre of Mission report submitted by Karen Webb as Lead Evangelist.

“Across these pages, we are given an account of dynamic ministry exercised across the whole of Connor Diocese. This is ministry that builds Christian lives today, to be the Christian disciples and Christian leaders both for today and for tomorrow,” he stated.

The Dean said it was equally important for the diocese to communicate the Good News stories of mission and outreach to the wider world, highlighting the report of Diocesan Communications Officer Karen Bushby.

Referencing Diocesan Administration, Dean Forde said: “It is the tremendous hard work of our diocesan staff, week after week, which enables us in the parishes to concentrate safely and effectively on ministries of growth and outreach.”

He highlighted the importance of the new Contact Management System, and encouraged parishes to continue to make use of the skills and expertise which Diocesan Development Officer Trevor Douglas BEM can offer.


The Dean spoke about the diocesan finance report and the parochial report, which he said described ‘the immense amount of detailed work carried out to ensure that parish churches and parochial buildings are maintained and developed for the present and future needs of ministry.’ He particularly commended ‘the constant and detailed work of Jim Patterson, our Glebes Secretary, working with the diocesan surveyors.’

The Dean also highlighted the report of the Down and Dromore and Connor Organ Scholarship Scheme. “In particular, let me acknowledge the generosity of the late Mrs Pat McKean of Templepatrick Parish. Her substantial, but until her death anonymous, donation is a principal source of funding for the scheme’s scholarships,” Dean Forde said.

The Diocesan Council Report was seconded by Sarah Simpson, Ahoghill & Portglenone, who revealed that, in contrast to Dean Forde’s 37 years, she has agreed to second the report in her first year on Diocesan Council!

Miss Simpson highlighted ‘the important and significant work’ which had been carried out by the Director of Ordinands, the Rev Canon Kevin Graham, and the Warden of readers, the Rev Peter Jones.

“It is vital at this point in history we continue to support those who feel the call of God to ordained ministry as highlighted in the report, it is all our responsibility to encourage members of our congregations to explore how God may be calling them to service and ministry in His Church,” she stated. “It is vital for the church to continue to identify, encourage and raise up women and men to the roles of diocesan reader, and ordained ministry.”

Miss Simpson drew Synod’s attention to the Mothers’ Union’s ‘Rise Up’ campaign against domestic abuse and the prayer breakfasts held in various locations to highlight 16 days of activism against Gender violence. 


She also spoke about the report of Christ Church Cathedral, Lisburn, which celebrated its 400th anniversary, referencing the various commemorative events. “In this 400th anniversary year it struck me as a significant development that Lisburn Cathedral’s church plant – South Lisburn Community church – Sunday worship moved in January of this year to meet in Largymore Primary school, enabling one building for worship and Sunday school,” she said.

Miss Simpson also referenced Belfast Cathedral’s 120th anniversary, joking that ‘they replaced the most uncomfortable chairs in Belfast’ with new comfortable and stackable chairs.

“The Board and congregation of Belfast Cathedral have chosen to use their 120th anniversary celebrations to look positively to the future by ‘Preserving the past, building the future,’” she said, and drew Synod’s attention to the Cathedral’s proposed ‘Voices of the Troubles’ project – intended to become Northern Ireland’s Centre for Acknowledgement, Learning and Memory as a community response from the churches to the years of the Northern Ireland Troubles.  

Miss Simpson also highlighted the work of The Hub University Chaplaincy in Belfast, and the role of Connor Council for Misson.

Following the words of the proposer and seconder, Synod took a break for lunch, provided by the members of Christ Church Parish in the parish halls, where members were also able to visit the various stalls set up by different agencies.


Business resumed following lunch, with the Council Report taken page by page. In relation to Connor Youth Council, the Rev Dennis Christie highlighted a questionnaire that had been prepared for parishes to feed back on youth ministry and any barriers they see in growing this ministry.

The Rev Jacob Mercer said it was planned to bring different parishes together once a month for an evening youth service, games and food, with young people invited to bring friends along.

In relation to the report of Connor Children’s Council, Victoria Jackson invited Beverley Ringland, from host parish Christ Church, Lisburn, to join her for a Q&A on the success of Messy Church in Christ Church.

Two Notices of Motion, one relating to Fair Share and One relating to Diocesan Regulations, were both passed by Synod.

Standing Orders were suspended for a second time for a well-received presentation by the Rev Pat Mollan on the Churches Ministry of Healing – The Mount.

Returning to the Diocesan Council Report, a number of people addressed the floor in relation to various sections – the Rev Peter Jones expressed his pleasure at having 12 new parish readers in Connor, bringing the total to 45 new readers in his five years as Warden of Readers; the Rev Dr Andrew Campbell highlighted Board of Education grants; and Alberta Miskimmon spoke about the work of Mothers’ Union in the diocese.

Dean Sam Wright highlighted pioneer ministry and the new community centre in Hillhall; the Rev Ross Mungavin paid tribute to the work of The Hub Chaplaincy; and Archdeacon Paul Dundas drew Synod’s attention to the work of the Council for Mission.

Before Bishop George closed Synod, Archdeacon Barry Forde thanked him for chairing the meeting and for his ‘careful and prayerful stewardship and care for people and parishes in a very complex diocese.”

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