On Thursday, I went along to Deanery Synod. As you might imagine, this was not the most exciting way of spending an evening, but could probably have been far worse.
It was the first session after elections, and so the agenda was planned to allow each parish 3 minutes to talk about their joys and sorrows in the present, and their dreams and nightmares for the future. A good idea for a large deanery, which is currently divided into 3 mini-chapters, so that not even the clergy know each other particularly well.
The St M’s spokesman went first, and I listened with some surprise. Was he describing the same church that I knew and served? Certainly there were features in common, but the emphases were all “wrong” as far as I was concerned. The projects I’m engaged with for children and families was there on the list of joys,- but the parish’s dream seemed to be that they would all file nicely in through the doors, to become part of the main congregation,- and for me that would be something close to nightmare! I don’t want to see those hesitant, exploring souls lose their independence, the freshness of their engagement with God. I’d hate to see them constrained or alienated by those same liturgies that are precious and helpful to others. This doesn't mean that either group is right or wrong… but their needs are so very different, and just now it feels right for me to be engaging more with those on the fringes,- but not as part of a concerted effort to lure them inside.
Another surprise was the discovery that the excitement we, as clergy, feel about a growing habit of prayer among our congregation just doesn’t impact anyone else. Since the beginning of the month, my vicar and I have only twice said the Office alone: this in a church which has in the not-too- distant past seen the priestly role as doing all the “God-stuff” on behalf of the laity. During Lent, our Bishop’s Prayer Initiative encouraged some people to join us morning and evening…the new CW Daily Prayer was the catalyst for others to come along and you can really feel the difference that this is having across the board.Except, perhaps, if you are busy writing reports for Deanery Synod.
Two views of the same parish. I don’t know what the synod made of our 3 minute slot, but the vicar and I both found it informative.