A Beginner at the Deanery Synod: My First Meeting, Monday, 20th. June 2022
We are in the Sonning Deanery, which contains a rich diversity of churches, historical and more modern, with varied parishes and parishioners. At the 2022 APCM I was elected to the Deanery Synod, becoming an ex officio member of the PCC. My first meeting was face to face at Finchampstead at the beginning of the new run of meetings. Thus, representatives began by taking Holy Communion in the beautiful medieval church of St. James, with its glorious, later added, brick tower. The service, which I thought was an inspiring way to begin the work of the new Synod, was led by Leonard, the parish priest, who achieved a most devout and focused atmosphere in which I felt immediately at home.
The first representative I met, was from St. George’s, Owlsmoor; a kind and lively lady who took me under her wing, mentoring me throughout the evening. I was the only new representative, so I did feel a little unsure. Her warm-heartedness was reflected in everyone I met; I was greeted with friendliness and spiritual sincerity that proved characteristic of the entire meeting. This was led by the Dean, Richard Lamey, the Lay Chair, John Sutton, whilst the Minutes were taken by the Rev.d Jane Kraft.
The Agenda did contain items with which I am as yet a tad unfamiliar, and which will require me to do some research and homework. For example, the agreement to end the system whereby parishes paid the Deanery a Quinquennial Levy each year, the Deanery paying for the Q.I. (??!!) There was discussion about the Deanery Grant Income and the ‘Parish Share’. I am sure I shall be illumined in time. There was also concern about the challenges that face all parishes of the Church of England, notably environmental issues, which are to benefit from a new Environmental Fund. This is good news, and All Saints has applied for such a fund on behalf of the work of our Climate Matters Group.
There were the customary Minutes of the last meeting (15/3/2022), Matters Arising and the Financial Report; clear and straightforward… Phew! There was also a short review of the outgoing Deanery Plan, which had been considerably stalled by the effects of the Pandammit. Thus, there were many familiar meeting landmarks! However, the new Deanery Plan is not yet ready to present to the Synod for consideration, because members of Standing Committee are suffering from Long Covid. The aim is to have the plan ready for discussion at the next meeting of the Synod in late September.
Three points impressed themselves on me:
- Praise was given to Colin James stepping back after 53 years of service to the Deanery Synod. He is to receive a gift and a special commendation from the Bishop. (Oops, I hope that is not a spoiler.) Colin’s is a remarkable achievement.
- An idea was floated by the Dean that the Climate Change/Matters groups at All Saints, Finchampstead and Wargrave might in time liaise and work more closely together, sharing ideas and resources. This was a speculation for the future.
- The Dean presented his vision of how the Deanery Synod might develop in the coming year and beyond: that it could become more open to new and diverse ideas that would contribute elements that would help to bring parishes closer together, forging stronger links across the family of churches.
I like the idea of emphasising that the Deanery is a family of churches and parishes, sharing one Christian faith and enriching each other with closer ties and interests.
I went away at the end of the evening feeling that there is much potential on offer in the Deanery Synod, that there is a vital ethos of commitment to developing new ideas in a synod which clearly has many engaged and interested representatives. I was impressed by the spirituality of the meeting, the openness and enthusiasm to serve God and the parishes, and the warmth and Christian love for our neighbours across the Deanery. The Deanery Synod is very much alive and forward looking. I am also looking forward to the meeting in late September.