THERE were over 100 delegates at the Diocesan Synod held in the Cornwall Council Chamber on Saturday 9 November.

One of the major themes for the day was the Environment; so it was only fitting that the opening worship revolved around words and music reflecting God’s Creation and its vulnerability. Their impact was significantly enhanced by the presentation of three powerful symbols of environmental damage – engine oil, contaminated sea water and rocks from an eroded sea cliff.

In his Presidential Address, entitled ‘Remembering Rightly in a Violent World’, Bishop Tim reflected on what ‘remembering’ means. He said that this was particularly relevant on the day before Remembrance Sunday and against the commemoration, in 2014, of the beginning of the First World War.

“It is hard to understand fully how we can commemorate something that happened so long ago,” he said. “How do we remember something of which we were not a part? What does remembering mean, and what does remembering rightly mean?

“As we remember events in which we have been involved, we remember differently; and the reality of what happened is a very complex concept … our remembering forms us as the humans we are. Our telling and retelling of stories that describe events that apparently happened in our past shape us and make us. Yet what does it mean to remember rightly and who has the authority to say what is right about our remembering?”

Bishop Tim continued: “We certainly live in a violent world and we do violence to ourselves and to others all the time. I want to stress the importance of recognising how violent we are to ourselves and to others.

“It may not be a comfortable thought or one with which you immediately agree or agree at all. But reflect on how emotional we get about certain matters, about how we speak to other people, or about how we think and feel about others; even when – or perhaps especially because – we cannot say what we want to say , so we repress our true feelings.

“What processes do we put in place to enable us to remember rightly; and is it ever right or helpful to forget and to move on? Is it not the case that, in fact, a key part of remembering rightly is moving on and accepting and living with the reality of now, rather than always trying to recreate what we believe happened or was real in the past?”

Bishop Tim pointed out that at the heart of our religious practice is the Eucharist – the moment above all when we are asked to remember. “Yet, of course, we were not there when this event took place,” he said. “We are not in that sense remembering an event in which we took part.

“So how do we remember rightly? As we enter this remembrance weekend what does remembering mean?

“My hope and prayer is that we recognise how significant this matter is especially as we celebrate the Eucharist time after time,” he concluded. “We can, if we dare, appreciate how remembering is linked so closely to the whole question of authority. It is also intimately linked with the question of who we are and who we allow ourselves to be as human beings, those who are created by God.”

During a presentation on the subject of Safeguarding, delegates were asked to warn their parish colleagues that at the next Synod, they (as delegates) would be asked to endorse the official diocesan Safeguarding Guidelines. There were two questions that should be asked: ‘Do they agree with them? and ‘Have you taken appropriate action at the parish level?’

“We all potentially present a safeguarding risk,” said safeguarding officer, Sarah Acraman. “It is important to keep up to date on the requirements following a change from CRB to DBS procedures. There have been changes and there is some confusion.

“The new process reduces the number of people we can officially check,” added Sarah. “So there is increased pressure to be very careful in recruiting volunteers.”

Next up was director of education, Sue Green, to present an update on the work of the Diocesan Board of Education. She described the Board’s approach to the complexities of the education system as ‘solution-based’. The DBE, through Askel Veur, had been approved as an Academy sponsor and its priorities included support for small schools, assistance to governors of schools facing financial pressures, and the identification of struggling schools.

Sue reported that Education Trust funds had been released to work on school improvement, in order to: raise aspirations, improve leadership, enrich ‘the place of schools in the community’, articulate and encourage Christian vocation to education, and ensure that no child is in an under-performing school.

“It has never been more important for churches to be involved with schools,” Sue suggested as she announced that several new Multi-Academy Trusts would be formed this autumn and in the New Year. This will include some ‘community’ schools.

As for the major challenges, Sue explained that there was great pressure on small schools facing large debts in 2014 unless measures were taken to resolve the issues. “We are encouraging small schools to get together. And for some, the right conclusion may be closure as individual entities and to become education hubs.”

In flamboyant style, the Dean of Truro, Roger Bush, presented his Report on July’s General Synod, which experience he likened to being a member of the crew of the Flying Dutchman … or perhaps like Bill Murray in the film, Groundhog Day.

He said that in his presidential address, the new Archbishop of Canterbury was “refreshing and bold in that he refused to be grounded by the hangover of last year, but sought to raise our eyes to consider other challenges, other possibilities.

“He talked about us all living in a time of revolution – he had just come back from the Middle East where he had experienced the Coptic Church’s very different experience of reality in a situation of great political turmoil, not just socially and economically, but culturally as well.

“He spoke movingly about how we, the Church, had to listen to the overwhelming support, as he experienced it, in the House of Lords given to the Second Reading of the Same Sex Marriage Bill; and he addressed the issue of women bishops.

“Archbishop Justin didn’t go into detail about how the shape of a possible solution may look, but he did say that when we do eventually ordain women as bishops, it will have to be in the same way that we ordain male bishops, transparently and celebratorily,” said the Dean.

In his presentation on the Diocesan Budget for 2014, director of finance, Michael Kent pulled no punches as he described a projected income of £5.23 million set against proposed expenditure of £6.49 million to leave a deficit of £1.26 million.

At £3.33 million, financing stipendiary ministry will continue to be the largest diocesan expense followed by £819,000 to be spent on property maintenance and improvements.

“Just over three-quarters of this deficit (£965,000) are directly attributable to the way we have been used to doing things, and it will be funded from reserves,” said Michael. “The General Fund will bear £146,000 and the Pastoral Account £819,000.

“The enormity of this deficit, on top of the budget deficits we have already racked up in recent years, vividly confirms, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this Diocese has no future living in the past. Therefore, this Budget also provides for the injection of £295,000 next year, to invest in change – to reinvigorate, to reshape and to equip the Church for the future – through the 3 Strands of Discipleship, Accompanied Ministry Development and Doing Church Differently.

“I emphasised the word invest intentionally,” said Michael. “Investments are intended to produce measurable results and, in this case, we should expect to see an increasing rate of growth in parish incomes and, consequently MMF contributions, sooner rather than later.

“The investment in the 3 Strands will be met from the Transformation Fund – and not through the MMF. This new Fund will derive its income (indirectly) from a proportion of the sale proceeds of parsonage houses, which have – and will continue to – become surplus to requirements because of declining stipendiary clergy numbers.

“A deficit budget is never a pretty sight,” Michael concluded. “But, given our present circumstances, the Executive believes that this budget is pragmatic and that the deficit is one which we are fortunately and responsibly able to bear.”

In the final session of the day, social responsibility officer, Revd Andrew Yates, and his colleagues from the Environment Group gave a presentation in support of the Motion, proposed by Bishop Tim, that:

“This Synod calls on the Diocese to plan and prepare a Cornwall Carbon Fast for Lent 2014 in co-operation with all the churches in the Diocese of Truro.

“Accordingly it urges everybody and especially all members of electoral rolls and their families, diocesan staff, church schools and academies and parish churches to take steps to cut their own carbon footprint by 40% during the 40 days of Lent 2014, starting on 5 March.”

Revd Yates reminded delegates that the Fifth Mark of Mission entreats us all to ‘strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the Earth’. He and colleagues described three key projects in the diocese that could serve as examples to other parishes – PV in Camborne, a wind turbine in North Petherwin and a biomass boiler in St Wenn.

Parishes were encouraged to:

  • switch to the Good Energy Scheme, either directly or via the Parish Buying Scheme;
  • create Living Churchyards;
  • use Energy Benchmarking:
  • use electronic communication methods, such as Skype, in order to reduce costly travel to events;
  • work with other agencies, such as Community Energy Plus to help prevent up to 300 extra deaths across Cornwall this winter as a consequence of fuel poverty; and
  • make sure that they signed up for the Diocesan Carbon Fast as part of their Lent Programme in 2014.

The Motion was carried with only one vote against and Bishop Tim emphasised his expectation that parishes would take the Carbon Fast in Lent 2014 seriously and make use of all the resources that had been described in the presentation.


Schools, Budget and Environmental Presentation Slides

Bishop Tim’s Presidential Address

The Dean of Truro’s Report on July’s General Synod