I write as Synod Pastor to encourage you in your life and work in the Synod. I particularly encourage you to engage with the facilitation group consultation going on now. As many of you heard at Synod meeting, the consultation has been planned across all the Missional Partnerships with representatives from each. We came together to ensure that you can say what you need to say to the synod as we all think ahead about mission, ministries, structures, partnerships, churches, communities and deployment. From the number of conversations which members of the facilitation group and I have had with a variety of people, it seems right to stop for a moment to put all the details shared in meetings and letters in one place.
The background – There was a resolution about structures in the October 2020 Synod meeting, with the meetings agreeing the principle, but not the detail, of those suggested structures. That agreement of principle is now being tested with all of you by means of this present synod wide, everyone-included consultation.
The questions – A number of people have said that they are not sure the questions the group has shared have been the right questions to deal with all of the open topics. We shaped the questions as we did in order to help you focus on your creativity during difficult times and to help you name the things you don’t want to lose. Rather than Covid stopping all worship, prayer and connections for all of us as surely as it narrowed our lives, you have shown ingenuity, inventiveness and, for many, a desire to connect in a variety of ways. For some of you, the change in the cycle of your personal routines showed that there is space and time to review the cycle of the routines in your churches. For a few of you, this has meant that it may be time to step back from that routine; for others it has been a welcome change and many flourishing things are happening. The question about what you’ve done in these times about which you are proud are examples of those flourishing things which will enrich our structure and partnership discussion. The question about the things you want to treasure and renew will let us all know what you’d like to hang on to and perhaps what you might like to drop.
We expect and hope that you’ll tell us a lot more. Please feel welcome! It will be helpful if we focus on the future shapes of ministry and mission as the questions we shared do. Whatever has been is already history, it had its own place and time.
No matter how we’d like to, we can’t change the past, but we can change many things as we take each day into the future. If we focus on what we can change, imagining the synod the way we’d want a synod to be, imagining partnerships between lay, ordained and commissioned ministry and churches the way we want them to be, then we have a chance of making those imaginings happen.
Please send us anything you think and feel around the two questions, add anything else you’d like to say and send it to Facilitation@nwsynod.org.uk
What’s next? Looking at the answers – A small team will look at the answers which are held securely in the consultation email files. One of the team at a time will remove the names from the answers and note whether they came from a church, a group of Elders, a Bible study group, a coffee morning, a youth activity or any other kind of gathering or group. Individuals can send in personal answers, but we’ll remove your name from the file. Your answers can be video diaries or pictures or poems. If you know that some church members can’t access email or the Synod newsletter, can you please print out the invitation letter and this letter for them so they can add their opinions? The only thing we ask is that you tell us which Missional Partnership you’re in, as that will help us sense variations of feelings and thoughts throughout the synod.
Finding out what the answers are telling us – We’ll put all those answers into a software tool called NVivo which helps us sort answers into themes and ideas. Each few weeks from November through December, we’ll put some charts and graphs with summaries of the themes and ideas onto the Synod website. As in question sharing, if you are aware that there are members with no access to the synod website, will you please share the emerging ideas and themes with them?
On some days in January and early February, we’ll have open analysis meetings to look at what’s coming out of all of your answers. The meetings will be open to members, ministers, church organisation leaders, young people, members of synod committees and synod staff members. There will be an open jumble of people from all synod corners and roles who all look at charts and pictures and examples of some anonymised answers and have conversations. They’ll agree on what the answers so far tell us all about Missional Partnerships, structures and more.
How do we decide? The analysis days will give us some ideas about partnerships, structures and deployment which we’ll then test out quite specifically with all of you with particular questions. We hope you’ll answer them as soon as you receive them, as it would be fabulous to have some solid suggestions to bring to Synod meeting in March when we plan to focus on Missional Partnerships at least. We can’t focus on everything all at once and we sense that some clarity around partnerships is the most desired goal for most people as a start. Once partnerships are more clear, then we’ll be able to focus on structures and deployment.
The answer to how we decide is that all of us do, including the committees who are ultimately responsible for supporting the synod. We also remember that we are part of the family of URC synods and what we do in the North Western Synod needs to help us participate well in our wider family.
Then what’s next? After March Synod meeting, we’ll all work on what the practical changes mean and on making any decisions become reality. There is much support for keeping moving forward in these changed times from all of our recognised leaders, including lay, ordained, commissioned and staff. There may be more and varied support depending on what you say you need for your mission and ministry. As said at Synod Meeting, “It’s our Synod.”
Revd Elizabeth Gray-King