Diocesan Synod 2020: Day Two

The Bishop Delivers her Charge to Synod

Day two of the Aberdeen & Orkney Diocesan Synod began with morning prayer and the Bishop’s Charge. Bishop Anne spoke about her “growing love of the people and places of this Diocese.”

She went on to speak about the case for optimism in the Diocese. Saying that there are places where “we are the only formal Christian presence.

“Although some church and congregations struggle, others are healthy and some are growing in numbers. Often the greatest signs of life are found in and through mid-week activities: cafés, healing services and activities supporting families and children.”

She called on the Diocese to engage more in speaking about God to others in our daily lives, and to “learn to be God’s people once again”. She stressed the importance of three things: seeking the Kingdom, dwelling on the word and centering Jesus in our lives.

“Kingdom, Scripture, Jesus. This is the call to be a disciple – or rather – disciples together. An apostolic people sent into the world by the spirit of God.”

Bishop Anne announced two Diocesan events to be held in Aberdeen throughout the coming year: 9 May will concern “listening to God and each other.” 17 July will be a pre-Lambeth Conference event considering the Lambeth 2020 theme: Being God’s Church for God’s World.

You can watch Bishop Anne’s Charge to Synod here.

Synod breaks into table groups

Synod then broke into table groups to discuss the call to put Kingdom, Scripture, and Jesus at the centre of Diocesan life.

Synod elected members to various roles within the Diocese. Further details of these elections will be made available online in due course.

The delegates were then asked to approve reports from Diocesan office-bearers. They were all approved by the consent of the Synod.

Bishop Anne made a statement to Synod regarding the Diocese’s relationship with Westhill Community Church. In the statement she re-iterated that no matter the future relationship between the Diocese and Westhill, they would remain family. She said “It is common ground between us that the Diocese and Westhill are now, and will remain, members of the Church of Christ.”

Synod then heard two presentations entitled ‘Small Church Stories’. The Rev Canon Dr Dennis Berk discussed the process that led to St Mary-on-the-Rock, Ellon and St James-the-Less, Cruden Bay becoming dementia-friendly congregations. Mr David Crosley (Lay member) then spoke movingly about his experiences caring for a person with vascular dementia.

The Rev Alastair McDonald spoke about his experience of implementing Messy Church sessions for young (and not so young) families, alongside ecumenical partners, at All Saints, Woodhead of Fyvie.

Following lunch, there was a presentation and discussion on the deterioration of the fabric of St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen. The Bishop made clear to the Synod that she was seeking prayer and support for the Cathedral, and for the Provost at this time of crisis in the life of the Cathedral. She stressed that in the Scottish Episcopal Church each Diocese must have a Cathedral. She went on to report on the ongoing deterioration of the Cathedral building and suggested some of the consequences of that if left unchecked. The Very Rev Dr Emsley Nimmo guided the Synod on a virtual tour of the Cathedral building throughout history, with specific references to the historical inspiration behind Archibald Simpson’s original building with Sir Ninian Comper’s additions. He referred to the fact that the estate has links to many significant moments in Episcopal and National history, including the consecration of Samuel Seabury, the Jacobite rising in 1745 and described how the very structure of the Cathedral is a liturgical exercise: “In our past we’ve been persecuted as a denomination.  In the present we are persecuted by indifference and it’s up to us to re-present what we’re about to the people of Scotland.  It’s the liturgy that holds us together, and the Cathedral is the Scottish liturgy set in stone… We are living stones who have to enliven that fantastic building that we’ve inherited.”

The Very Rev Dr Isaac Poobalan, Provost of the Cathedral then spoke about the work that had been undertaken by the Cathedral congregation in order to respond to these issues. He spoke also about the many international visitors (especially in the United States) for whom the Cathedral is a spiritual home, and how some of them have been willing to offer help in this issue. He said “One priest from Houston came and she stood in front of the altar and she said: ‘I have come home.’ This is what we have inherited and this is where we are, but the challenges are, as you could see yesterday, dire”

Synod then broke into table groups to discuss how they as individuals and representatives of charges thought about this news, and how they might like to respond.

Synod then debated a motion proposed by the Very Rev Dr Emsley Nimmo requesting that the Provincial Faith and Order Board bring a motion to the General Synod to begin the process of recognising in the SEC’s Calendar the Rev Richard Lyon, a former priest who was dedicated to the Episcopal cause, showed supreme forgiveness and was the only Scottish Episcopal Priest to have been martyred. Next year (2021) will be the 275th anniversary of his martyring. The motion was seconded by the Rev Canon Jeremy Paisey. The motion passed unanimously.

Bishop Anne thanks John Whittall

Bishop Anne then spoke briefly about the Lambeth Conference 2020 and the Provincial Year of Pilgrimage 2021 before offering thanks on behalf of the Diocese to John Whittall who is stepping down as Diocesan Secretary after many years service.

The dates of the Diocesan Synod next year were given: 26-27 February, 2021. Bishop Anne then formally assented to the acts of the Synod and offered a final blessing.

You can read the report from Day One of the Diocesan Synod here.