‘Move forward with vision and vigour’ – Report of Diocesan Councils presented at Dublin & Glendalough Synod
The events of the last 18 months have given us a unique opportunity to examine how we do things and how we may wish to do things in the future, the Revd Rob Clements (Kilternan) told members of Dublin & Glendalough Diocesan Synods on Wednesday evening (October 6). Proposing the Report of Diocesan Councils during the online Synod, Mr Clements said we are “only beginning to scratch the surface of what faith and flourishing might look like post Covid” and stated there is an opportunity to reimagine and reinvigorate ministry and mission.
He acknowledged that living with Covid had been tedious, trying and for many people traumatic. “Our communities have been exhausted and bruised at local and diocesan levels, and it may take us some time to reconnect meaningfully with one another. It is difficult to cultivate relationships when we are but little boxes on a screen,” he said.
For the sake of our wellbeing people needed to give each other space, grace and time but recognise that the church is in a unique missional moment.
Referring to a webinar which took place in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute on Online Church in a Post–lockdown World (see more here) by the Ven Bob Jackson, Mr Clements said that he was struck by the challenge to move from responding to planning.
Highlighting the suggestions from the webinar, Mr Clements pointed to the ways in which the church in Dublin and Glendalough was meeting the new challenges.
The first suggestion is that the post covid church needs to be a church with wider doors – churches need to think about welcoming back those who were there before but also reaching out to those looking anew at faith and belonging. In this area he pointed to the work with children and young people and the efforts made to pioneer creative engagement with families and teenagers. Included in this are events like Muddy Church. He paid tribute to Susie Keegan who has moved on from her role as Diocesan Youthwork Coordinator and welcomed Emma Fawcett to the role. He also thanked all involved in communications who helped many evolve from luddites to vlogers and YouTube influencers thus extending outreach to new spaces.
The second area is that the church must have deeper wells. Covid has raised existential questions about death, human limitation and flourishing, he said and people are looking anew at what the spiritual life might mean for them. In seeking to deepen prayer and conversation, he drew attention to the ministries to young adults and third level students and the profound work of care of hospital chaplains.
The third and fourth challenges posed by Archdeacon Jackson were that the church must have wiser programmes and smarter structures. In these areas Mr Clements drew Synod’s attention to the financial challenge experienced by churches. He said churches had exercised creativity and judgement in fundraising and managing these challenges and paid tribute to all who prepared and managed the diocesan accounts so immaculately. He said the diocese was committed to good governance and thanked the staff of the diocesan office, Sylvia and Vicki and welcomed Caroline.
“Perhaps to some extent this has been a year whereby we have had to focus on steadying the ship in light of surrounding storms. But we need to move forward with vision and vigour in the days ahead,” he concluded.
Speaking to the report, Dr Lucy Michael (Malahide) noted that last year’s Synod received a presentation on cultural diversity from the Revd Prof Anne Lodge and said it was imperative that that work be continued. Prof Lodge responded to say that the next stage had been delayed as it involved having conversations with people in parishes and she was waiting for safer times in order that face to face conversations could take place.
David McConnell (Zion) highlighted the work of Church Music Dublin which was set up 30 years ago. In that time over 100 people had completed the full three year training scheme and asked parishes to identify people who could undertake the training programme. He directed people to their website which is a fount of musical information – www.churchmusicdublin.org.