Diocesan Synod Report 2018
Pleas for focus on joy and the bigger picture were at the heart of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory’s diocesan synod
Bishop Michael Burrows, in his opening sermon this year, drew comparisons between the Pharisees mentioned in that day’s gospel and the work of a diocesan synod.
He stated that we need to be talking about the issues that are important in society today as well as looking after diocesan and parochial housekeeping and expressed a hope that the synod would inspire speeches about migrancy, homelessness, poverty and the presidency.
“We mustn’t let the church suck the justice and passion out of us simply by allowing it to fill us with a kind of institutional exhaustion,” he said, “and a group think more akin to a heritage preservation society than a body of people almost drunk in the dynamism of the spirit.”
He, of course, appreciated the work of those involved with synod acknowledging that it is because some ‘give generously of our time on more pedestrian matters of good housekeeping, stewardship and account balancing that other, perhaps, more adventurous souls are liberated and enabled to pursue the more impassioned side of the witness of the church’.
He referred to Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees as being like ‘unmarked graves’, having a very insidious influence on others and dressing it up as holiness when in fact it is the enemy of justice.
Do we lure people into a trap of piety and glib assurance and suck the justice out of them, he asked – twice.
“To be honest I think that the Church of Ireland in its institutional and synodical life at both central and diocesan level is not entirely innocent of that particular charge,” he said. “We need to be careful. Some would say that we seek biblical and theological justification to be the active enemies of causes the world regards self-evidently as just… We become increasingly introspective, increasingly irrelevant, increasingly ignored – a sort of a niche church – a club at times – and we worry about this and we don’t know how to break the cycle.”
He highlighted Paul’s change of tone in the second part of the epistle reading where his fear of vice becomes an authentic love of virtue and where he identifies joy.
“To me joy is the greatest gift and virtue – the game changer,” Bishop Burrows said.
“This year I plead for a joyful synod. It’s been a tough year on the land but we’ve plenty to eat, Brexit may be coming but we can take a small measure of pride in the stability and general good sense of our small nation so let’s go about our business today with joy.”
Strategic planning synod in spring
“(Changing and adapting as circumstances require) is not easy,” he said. “It’s a bit like turning an oil tanker round in a narrow bay.”
He mentioned the importance of leadership and listening to what’s being said as the church evolves and how confirmation was not an academic exercise but a means to engender a sense of belonging in young people in the life of the church and community.
Prayerful encouragement motion
A motion was passed in the afternoon related to offering prayerful encouragement to the Standing Committee of the General Synod as it addresses the sensitive issue of synodical representation across the Church of Ireland.
In this motion the synod recognised the need for review and reform but also ‘trusts that any legislative proposals brought before the 2019 General Synod will reflect the need for geographical and theological balance across the Church in a manner consonant with the proper spaciousness of Anglicanism’.
A motion related to the Liturgical Advisory Committee being asked to consider using excerpts from the Gnostic gospels at public worship was defeated following interesting debate.
Important contributions by professional educators
Later with the presentation of education committee reports there was erudite discussion that included the Dean of Cashel’s serious concern about principals’ current workload and its burnout impact and a nuanced summary related to school enrolment, its legislative and faith-related challenges as well as the many varying definitions of membership of the Church of Ireland by Bunclody principal Carolyn Good.
How Bishops’ Appeal changes lives was spoken about by Gillian Purser and on behalf of the Mothers’ Union Phyllis Grothier thanked the Bishop for his practical support and encouragement with the Route 66 fund-raiser.
As Phyllis is nearing the end of her term of All-Ireland President of Mothers’ Union the bishop also paid tribute to her.
“We are proud of you,” he said, “of your energy and common sense and capacity to cut through waffle and get to where things need to be’.
Simon Thompson, principal of Kilkenny College which now has 920 pupils, also gave a presentation about the work of the school.
Ministry, environment and safeguarding trust
Continuing Ministry and Adult education came next with Dean Tom Gordon also describing the autumn and spring programme and the Reverend David White on behalf of the Diocesan Environmental Committee spoke of positive progress, appealing to parishes to take even small eco actions to encourage bees in order to preserve our flora, mentioned a conference in the pipeline and highlighted the committee’s new Facebook page (search for CFO Environment Committee).
The Reverend Canon James Mulhall spoke about the ‘huge amount of work that has to unfold over the next year’ in relation to Safeguarding Trust matters.
Guests at synod included representatives from the Roman Catholic Church and Society of Friends as well as Archdeacon Andie Brown from our link Diocese of Sodor and Man who contributed an evaluation of the atmosphere and business of the synod.
Before ending with prayer, Bishop Burrows thanked everyone for attending, delighted to see, he said, that Cashel, Ferns & Ossory was ‘growing toward a generous vision of goodness’.