More than 60 members of Truro Diocesan Synod didn’t meet on Saturday at Lys Kernow – instead they took to cyberspace and joined in a virtual meeting via Zoom.

Regulations meant that this style of meeting could not conduct the formal business of synod, but nevertheless there was still plenty to discuss.

In his Presidential Address, Bishop Philip acknowledged that our diocese had not been as badly hit as some others by coronavirus although, as he noted, that would be of scant comfort to those who had lost loved ones.

‘Unpalatable possibilities’

The bishop said: “But if in healthcare terms the impact has been relatively low, economically we could be in for a big hit. We are faced in many ways with some unpalatable possibilities. If visitor numbers are low this summer we may be spared a second wave of infection, whereas with a significant influx then we could well see rates of infection increase significantly.

“But with no significant summer season the economic impact would be very severe and indeed the healthcare implications of such an economic hit would also be significant, not least in terms of mental health. The head of Visit Cornwall said that we are faced with the equivalent of three winters on the trot and that would be a real blow to us all.”

However, he reflected that the community response to what we are facing had been outstanding: “The spirit of One and All has been evident and strong, with real creativity and dedication in evidence in all kinds of ways that I’ve found very humbling. Our economic capital may be facing crisis but our social capital is strong.”

Impressed and encouraged

Bishop Philip said he had been immensely impressed and encouraged by the way that as a diocese, in our parishes and wider communities, we have risen to the challenges that have presented themselves.

He said: “We really have rolled up our collective sleeves and ‘got on with it’. Yes we’ve done that in terms of online worship, and that’s been great, but we’ve done it in really effective and loving community service too, in ways I’ve found deeply humbly and encouraging. A recent survey said that 71% of churches nationally were delivering new services they’d not done before, and that doesn’t surprise me. And as your bishop I do want to say a huge thank you to you all for the wonderful way in which you have responded in loving service of our neighbours. Thank you so much.”

Following worship, everybody broke into groups to reflect on the life of the church in a time of coronavirus, potentially responding to questions posed in Bishop Philip’s address.

General Synod feedback

There then followed a session in which some of the diocese’s elected General Synod representatives gave feedback on the business done at the most recent session. This included reports on the environmental motion, which saw an audacious commitment to reducing the church’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030; and feedback and reflection on the so-called Windrush motion, in which the church – and Archbishop Justin – expressed their shame in the way some people from black, Asian,  and minority ethnic groups had been treated by others within the church.

Other topics included in this section were a motion that addressed the issue of the declining number of user-16s engaging with the church; and the issue of the rising number of ‘pauper funerals’ and what might be done to end them and find ways to deliver a more compassionate send off for the departed, as well as meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of those left behind.

Next on the agenda was another break-out session, in which people were split into 12 groups to consider a paper:  ‘Towards a narrative, theology and strategy of diocesan mission and ministry’.

‘Nearly-bishop Hugh’

This work was facilitated by Revd Hugh Nelson – soon to be ordained as a bishop and take up the role of Bishop of St Germans, which provided many people with a welcome first opportunity to ‘meet’ him. Plans for his welcome to the diocese have yet to be finalised and will depend on the date of his ordination being set – watch this space for more details soon.

After the feedback from the groups, members were then treated to a recording of members Truro Cathedral choir, including the girl choristers. They sang John Taverner’s Hymn to the Mother of God, for which they had each recorded two parts in their own homes. The recordings had been edited together giving a special and moving end result.

Carbon savings

Following the closing worship, members embarked on a rather shorter journey home than usual – many of them reflecting on the carbon emissions that had been saved by not driving the length and breadth or Cornwall, or travelling from the Isles of Scilly or our two parishes in Devon.