We have woken to another lovely sunny day in York. Sunday during the York Synod is always special because we all leave the campus – a good thing in itself – and make our way to the Minster for the Eucharist.
There is something of the 1950’s always about this morning. People actually get dressed up to go to church! Having just been to breakfast clergy are in their collars, people are in their finest, lovely summer dresses, jackets and chinos, people making an effort – you even see some hats being worn. It has the sense of an occasion. And in the procession at the Minster are the officers of the Synod and it will be god to see both Christine and Cherry, our two Prolocutors, walking in together. The Archbishop of Canterbury is to preside at the Eucharist – I’m not sure if that means that Archbishop Sentamu will preach. But it is bound to be a lovely service and ending, as always, with the choir singing Psalm 150 as they leave, the final lines fading away in the lovely acoustic.
After that I’m off to a Reception at the Deanery hosted by the new Dean of York, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull. It will be good to see Viv. She was a member of the General Synod but in moving from Leicester to York lost her place. We miss her and so it will be good to be with her in the Cathedral.
During meal times there are always fringe events and this lunch I am due to attend a panel discussion on ‘Monasticism Old & New’. Archbishop Justin mentioned in his Presidential Address that the renewal of religious life in the church is one of the priorities of his archiepiscopate. He is already giving great encouragement to religious communities to think about new ways of living out their life and vocation. So it will be good to hear what is happening in places like the Community of the Resurrection and elsewhere.
The business of the Synod resumes after lunch. We will be reminded that the General Synod is, alongside Parliament, a law making body in this realm, as we begin with legislative business. We then move on to Safeguarding and the follow-up to the Chichester Commissaries’ Report. I heard on the BBC this morning that it is expected that a full apology will be made to the victims of abuse in the Chichester Diocese. If that is the case, and there is no reason not to think it will be, though I obviously don’t know for certain, it will be both good and painful to hear. Good, in that we must apologise and repent for what has gone wrong; painful, because such evil abuse should not happen in the Church which should be a place of safety for all. So it will be an important but difficult afternoon.
Then in the evening, after we have had our Southwark supper (a chance for all those from Southwark here at Synod to eat together), we will return to the Chamber to discuss a report on Welfare Reform and the Church. That again is an important debate and we have a great deal, as a church, to say to the Government and the nation. The debate on the Quinquennium yesterday evening included lots of references to the numbers of food banks that the church has now established at the local level. That is only one indicator that things are not right and that welfare reform is leaving many people, including those in work, in real poverty. We may live in an age of austerity, but does that mean we live in an age when the needs of the poorest are no longer high on the agenda. Liberation theology reminds us that God has an option for the poor and I hope that comes through clearly in the debate.
So an interesting day ahead of us – but now to church, where this will be the Collect that we will use to focus our prayer and our worship:
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.