I'm just in from my first Deanery Synod since arriving here,- and a surprisingly passionate one it was too. Under the current diocesan pastoral strategy, something like 20 stipendiary posts have to be shed over the next 1o years, and there is a growing realisation that rural benefices cant actually expand much further:there are several in these parts uniting 6-12 parishes. Logically,therefore, there is now a need to consider seriously when vacancies occurr in the towns, and each deanery is asked to have mission action plans, pastoral strategies etc in place in readiness for the next vancancy. In our deanery there are currently two unfilled vacancies, and another which has been advertised, though so far without success...so this is a very real issue. Tonight, we heard one practical suggestion that our views be co-ordinated and positive recommendations be logged...one passionate plea for a church without buildings, freed to engage with people where they are....and a no less passionate reminder of the value of the building as a visible sign of God's presence with his people. Nobody liked the idea of the church pulling out of the disadvanted areas which currently have the lowest Sunday attendance figures...but then, nobody much liked the idea of voting themselves out of a job or an accessible worship centre whose churchmanship matched their own. The Rural Dean asked "What would Jesus do?" and there was a moment of tangible calm as we tried to focus on that, to hear what He was actually saying to us. Then we got into the dreaded small groups to discuss....certainly nobody in my group had heard anything clear...we were united in our conviction that it was all very difficult and I have to say that, having only entered stipendiary ministry 3 months ago, it feels a bit soon to be arguing myself out of a job. Certainly I am generally quite busy enough to justify my existence, but as to whether I could be more usefully deployed in another context, I truly don't know.