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November Diocesan Synod

Wednesday 16th November 2016

Diocesan Synod November 2016

Diocesan Synod Saturday 12 November 2016

Change, Recovery, Progress, Growth

The overall message was: much accomplished, much still to do.  Synod heard how significant changes have delivered the financial savings necessary for the Church to press forward its mission to create growth across the Diocese.  It’s an ongoing process, but the Diocese is getting close to ‘living within its means’.

The President’s Address

Praising Diocesan Office staff for facing up to many changes, Bishop Martin thanked the Interim Diocesan Secretary Charles Darley for his work in bringing the organisation into line with the Vision and Strategy, achieving a huge amount during his five months here.

Bishop Martin introduced Anna Hughes, the new Diocesan Secretary, who will take up her role on 30 January 2017.  Anna, a qualified accountant, former finance director and charity CEO, told Synod how much she was looking forward to taking up her new post.

In an uncertain world that challenges human worth and dignity across the globe, Bishop Martin said the context of our Vision and Strategy is God’s call on us to participate in God’s activity within our communities: “God is with us”.

Diocesan Vision and Strategic Priorities

Two contexts for growth had been delineated by the Bishop’s Staff and the Bishop’s Council at their recent residential meetings into next steps for “Growing in God: Flourishing Congregations Making a Difference”  – (1)  Ipswich (standing for urban Suffolk) and (2) Rural Suffolk. In both contexts, three action points were identified:

  • Equipping for mission – discipleship development, training etc
  • Finance and buildings – decreasing costs and increasing income
  • Children, young people, and schools – development, engagement

Synod members were divided into groups during the meeting to ‘brainstorm’ some ways in which the three action points can be addressed on the ground within the two contexts. Scribes recorded the ideas generated and these will be fed into the Strategy Action Plan to guide our progress.

Two inspiring “Growing in God” initiatives on enhancing worship were shared. The Revd Margaret Blackall told Synod how the Pettistree Friday Service is bringing people together in a thriving service of quietness, faith and fellowship, and getting the village pub involved in after-service coffee; and the Revd Carl Melville told how family@church was a resource to help rural churches grow, enhance worship for all ages, and deepen faith for new congregations.

Transformation

Finance is not what we’re about, the Synod heard, but we need finance to fund the Vision and make it a reality.  Efficiency, improvements, costs savings – everything must be driven by the mission “Growing in God”. That has meant dropping old ways of working, improving Office process and IT so the team can work ‘smarter’, spot and eradicate their own inefficiencies, becoming freed to support the parishes more proactively in implementing the strategy on the ground.  It has also meant a reduction in the number of posts in the office. 

Charles Darley, Interim Diocesan Secretary, made clear to Synod that when he had completed his time at the end of January there would be no further cuts to be made. He had secured savings amounting to £460k per annum, and that will deliver a balanced budget in 2017.  But that will only happen if the Diocese’s share payment increases from this year’s average of 91.6% to 94%.

Share collection across the UK varies between 95% and 98% so we are lagging behind the national average.  Our aim is to have more support for parishes who can’t pay and a more robust process to challenge parishes who ‘won’t pay’.

Thanks to the efforts already made, our recovery plan is firmly on track. And with a better level of payment of share, we can bring the vison of growing Suffolk in God ever nearer reality.