Bishop Philip used his Presidential Address at the Diocesan Synod on Saturday to reinforce the message that the fruitful and sustainable plans developed by local people in the deaneries do not include any proposals to close parish churches.

Speaking to synod members at the last meeting of the year, Bishop Philip was also keen to make clear his commitment to the Church being a presence in every community in the full sense of the word.

“Whilst it might be true that we are present in every community in geographical terms (even taking into account the fact that some of our parish churches are in rather out of the way places) it is undeniably not the case in other ways. There are many communities from which we are very evidently absent..”

He went on to say: “That is why the work of ‘On the Way’ has been so important, with the clear commitment in so many deanery plans to address those imbalances…

“Don’t think I undervalue what we are already doing. There is much that is very good going on already: I just want more of it! And the On the Way plans are a key means of enabling us to do yet more.”

Reflecting on the meeting’s theme of ‘A Church that is Good News for the Poor’ and the need to approve the diocesan budget for 2023, Bishop Philip said: “This budget takes seriously, and reflects, the ‘On the Way’ plans that have emerged from our deaneries, and those plans frequently reference our need and desire to be good news for the poor in a way we are not currently. It also makes a commitment to use a greater proportion of our reserves to support local parish ministry in the delivery of those plans, to release our churches from some of the inevitable pressure MMF creates. And it’s particularly pleasing to see the Lowest Income Community Funding, which we receive from the Church centrally, properly used for the purpose for which it’s given.”

As deaneries start to implement their plans, Bishop Philip took the opportunity to thank those involved. “I want to go on record and say how very grateful I am for the hard work that has gone on in deaneries to put those plans together to address these challenges I’ve outlined. And I’m also very grateful for the hard work that Deanery Implementation Teams are now undertaking to give shape and substance to them. There is nothing to fear in these plans. Yes, there is risk in them, but the riskier thing would be not to change. ‘Business as usual’ has not been evidently successful over the last 20-30 years in addressing those issues I mentioned just now. There is so much more we can and we should do.”

To read the full Presidential Address click here.