I apologise if I got a bit grumpy yesterday – but that it was how it felt and it needed to be said. But a new day brings a new beginning. Keble’s great hymn is always a place to begin the day.
New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.
It seemed that Synod was ‘restored to life and power and thought’ and what resulted were some debates that were extremely good – Synod at its best. After the opening eucharist we moved into an area of work which has rightly occupied a great deal of time during this Quinquennium, and I’m obviously not talking about the ordination of women.
Some revisions to measures and canons in relation to safeguarding were before us. These were part of the constant process of getting this area of our life right, in terms of process, in terms of clarity and making sure that the needs and views of survivors of abuse are properly taken account of.
Then we moved, after Standing Orders, to a debate about how we deal pastorally and liturgically with those who have committed suicide. It’s a subject that is very difficult and delicate and especially for those of us who have had experience of suicide in the family, or amongst our friends, or in the parish. But one of the most powerful speeches – and there were many – came from a member of the Youth Council who talked in terms of the frightening number of young people who take their own life – more than one a day at the present time. Many are young men, many have been self harming and all are loved by God. The strong sense that came across in the debate was that God’s love is without limits. Fr Thomas Seville CR made the important point that by being compassionate we were not condoning suicide, and that was very clear in the debate. But at the same time the old sense that suicide set some one so apart from God that they were to be denied the ministrations of the church was absent and the final, overwhelming vote of the Synod in favour of changing how we work was very moving.
The afternoon opened with a debate on the new, alternative baptismal texts, which are specifically for use on those occasions when the congregation present might have a more peripheral association with church and the faith and need more accessible language. This is the hinterland I was talking about the other day in relation to discipleship and so it was good that the new texts were approved. But again it is about expressing the breadth of love that God has for all his children, all of creation, rather than the narrowness and the begrudging attitudes that often seem to come from the church.
At so many services nowadays we sing an old Fr Faber hymn that seems to become more and more relevant to where we are, an almost prophetic message to us who are working to create a more inclusive, welcoming church that mirrors the nature of the kingdom.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.
And the words which should always challenge us
But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.
Synod was in a better and more inclusive place today.
With a final debate on mission and growth in rural parishes this Group of Sessions came to an end. This was our last time in Westminster for this Quinquennium. We next meet in York in July and when we are next in Westminster – well, it will be a new Synod and who knows who will have been returned to continue this important, frustrating but vital work of enabling the Church of England to be the visible sign and presence of God’s inclusive, welcoming, embracing kingdom of justice, mercy and peace.
Lord, for all we have done, thank you;
for all we failed to do, forgive us;
for all we could do, inspire us;
for all we shall do, bless us;
in Jesus’ name.