Just returned from my first diocesan synod in Argyll and The Isles. My impressions?
As a new arrival in the diocese, I tried to approach with no strong expectations one way or another. The new bishop, only a few weeks into his episcopate, was always going to bring a fascinating twist to the sense of the synod, but as for the rest of us?
A pre-Synod day on building a vision was hard work, but creatively done. Did we hear any new hopes or fears? Probably not too many - the challenges we face as a widely distributed church in the 21st century are well known. The opportunities that ministry offers in a breath-takingly beautiful place, a thin place, a rooted place are wide and varied.
+Kevin managed to remember to constitute synod at the eucharist that evening, and the dining and dancing flowed on smoothly from there.
The business of synod was brisk - finance, the progression of canonical change, diocesan review of provincial initiatives. The financial story was improving very greatly (although, as at the local level, still a way to go!). Canonical change seemed largely uneventful and largely not relevant to this diocese: no licenced posts held by over seventy-year olds. The provincial gender audit was of interest: more women than men worship, a universal truth it seems. More men than women lead - a statistic that I believe time will even for the clerical side of the balance: less than 20 years of female priests, several hundred (in the modern era) of male!
A good debate on the rural report: there is tangible and relevant hope for ministry in the rural swathes of Scotland. But how to embrace this opportunity? We had plenty of tales of successful initiatives and positive encounters.
Elections, reports, all the usual business of a synod. But all done in good spirits and with a positive, optimistic sense.
The post-synod day - a clergy day - was very interesting too. The clergy do not have the answers on where the diocese will go, but are the ordained 'specialists' in some areas (oh, the debates one can have on that title!). The conclusions from this morning? There are opportunities for mission and growth, and we all need trained and formed to seize these opportunities. And we all need trained and formed to grow a vision that will lead us there.
Tired but feeling positive, we departed for our far flung yet beautiful corners of the world!