DIOCESAN SYNOD REPORT 2023
A DAY OF ELECTIONS, REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR PEACE
Our Diocesan Synod 2023 took place on Wednesday 18th October last in the Tower Hotel, Waterford. After a Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral Synod opened at 3.30 p.m.
As it was a triennial year, elections were a major feature of the agenda with results timetabled for publication as soon as possible after Synod.
After the usual opening procedures were completed, including the welcome of visitors,* chairperson of Synod, Bishop Adrian Wilkinson gave his first Presidential Address at an ordinary session.
In it he thanked all those who had made him and his wife Jacqui welcome since their arrival and went on to give a brief overview of developments in the diocese over the past year. He commented, in particular, on new administrative arrangements and personnel in the Diocesan Office, as well as the valuable link between the bishop as patron and the primary schools throughout the Diocese.
He also highlighted the presence of the Revd Rob Jones, the national director of Pioneer Ministry in the Church of Ireland, as a speaker at the Synod and on St Luke’s Day he prayed for healing in its widest context including among the nations where there is conflict.
“The horrific war in Ukraine and the tragedy unfolding before our very eyes in Israel, Gaza and the tensions more broadly in the Middle East is at the forefront of our concern and prayers,” he said.
Concluding his first Synod address, the Bishop drew attention to the metaphor of church as boat.
“One of the metaphors used to describe the church is the image of the boat. Let us not be so focused on the process of building the boat that we forget the joy of sailing,” he said.
“Yes, we need to construct the vessel and make sure that it is seaworthy and that is a lot of what today is about. But we also need to look up and out to the sea and the far horizon. We need to remember the thrill and adventure of sailing the high seas to journey beyond the horizon and perhaps to experiences and encounters we cannot yet imagine. Under God let us go home this evening encouraged by all that has been done and have vision and enthusiasm for what potentially lies ahead.’
The consideration of the Report of the Diocesan Council was next on the agenda. It was proposed by the Dean of Ossory, The Very Reverend Stephen Farrell, who told Synod that a programme to revise Diocesan rules is being put in place, through the correct procedures.
“The church is always reforming and ….has to be open to the possibility of change,” he said.
“The world has changed much in recent years from the need to embrace digital means of communication…to the need to be alert to the committee and travel burden that the Church can all too easily impose upon the willing. Added to this are the ever-shifting sands of governance and compliance and charities law and members will quickly appreciate the need for a fresh look at our regulations. It is hoped that these will come before this Synod next year.”
He went on to thank Council for the allocation of €27,580 in Diocesan Youth Grants, funds which can be a gamechanger for parishes involved in youth ministry.
He also praised Council’s financial support for Ordinands and encouraged parishes to avail of the grants available through the Church of Ireland Priorities Fund.
He then referred to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In parishes we still feel its effects and I suspect it is often the elephant in the room when we consider both our challenges and our opportunities.”
He finished, however, by speaking of how so many in the Diocese ‘are working creatively, openly and collaboratively to see how we can move on, how we can regain both our equilibrium and our confidence and how we can help one another as different parts of the one body of Christ as we each seek together to live out the commission our Lord has given us.’
The Report was seconded by Margaret Jacob who congratulated all in the Diocese who were involved in preparations for the very successful General Synod held in this Diocese, in Wexford, in May 2023.
Standing Orders were then suspended so that the National Director of Pioneer Ministry, The Reverend Rob Jones, could speak about plans to help parishes reach those with little or no connection to church, in fresh ways.
A motion related to establishing a sub-committee to consider the future management of non-consecrated properties was then presented by The Reverend Máirt Hanley, in light of the strain that property management places on select vestries and glebe wardens. After discussion a revised motion was put forward which included all church properties.
The motion, which was seconded by Mr Robbie Syme, Chairperson of the Ferns Diocesan Glebes and Property Committee, was passed and reads as follows:
“That this synod, recognising the increasing strain that property management places on select vestries, directs the Diocesan Council to establish a sub-committee to consider the future management of properties and to submit a report and recommendations to the next meeting of diocesan synod.”
Several speakers spoke in relation to property and the challenges of meeting heritage legislation and Heritage Council requirements related to listed buildings.
A second motion was then introduced by Dean Stephen Farrell and seconded by Shane Reynolds:
“This Synod, while acknowledging the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage as set out in the Book of Common Prayer, believes that pastoral and liturgical provision should be made for those persons of the same sex, whose relationships have been previously recognised by law, and who wish to have an appropriate service of prayer and dedication.
This Synod therefore requests that the General Synod and House of Bishops allow some measure of Diocesan discretion in the provision of suitable prayers for use where such services are locally desired and acceptable, and where no priest or minister would be required to act against their conscience.”
After a secret vote following many positive remarks by speakers, the motion was passed – 101 votes to 8.
Following a break for a meal, several other Diocesan Reports were presented including those of Education, Religious Education, Kilkenny College, Youth Ministry, Continuing Ministry and Education, Communications and Magazine, Family and Children’s Ministry and Safeguarding.
Presenting the Education Report Archdeacon Mark Hayden commended staff and members of boards of management for all their work. Canon Patrick Harvey presented the Religious Education report and The Reverend Alex Morahan the report from Kilkenny College. Following his entertaining speech Mr Morahan was thanked and wished well as he departs to become Rector of Killala parish in Mayo. Carolyn Good presented the Children and Families report and spoke of her diocesan role and Bunclody parishioner, Rachael Murphy’s national role and the committee’s plans to build an online support network for those involved in children’s ministry.
Canon Nicola Halford, presenting the Youth Report, spoke of the very encouraging year for youth ministry in this diocese. with 75 young people attending the summer camp in Waterford in July.
Shane Reynolds, at his first Synod, introduced himself as Diocesan Digital Media Officer and spoke of the progress made on the digital front with Diocesan Instagram and X accounts now set up and increased followers on Facebook also.
Margaret Hawkins, Magazine editor, thanked all those who provided notes and articles for the Diocesan Magazine and while price increases are necessary this year due to increased costs, she dwelt on the positive and asked those present to continue to be active advocates for the Magazine.
The Very Reverend James Mulhall then brought Synod up to date with all matters related to Safeguarding Trust procedures.
Synod was also told that elections for the General Synod would have to take place by post in the following days due to age-related errors on the ballot papers.
*Guests at Synod included Fr John Harris, Administrator of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, The Reverend William Kidd of the Baptist Church, The Reverend Dr Sayr Yambasu of the Methodist Church, Mr Noel Keane of the Society of Friends, the Mayor of Waterford City and County, Cllr Joe Conway and Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, The Most Reverend Alphonsus Cullinane who spoke briefly at Synod, mentioning his plans for bells to be rung for peace in all churches in his diocese on 11th November at 11 a.m.