So, we are in York for the final time of this quinquennium. Time flies when you’re having fun of course and there have been memorable moments during these last few years. Who knows if this Group of Sessions will give us anything memorable. I suppose it all depends on the mood – last day of term, ready to party, released, sad – yes, even sad I think for those who won’t be standing again. Synod is a place where you make a great many friends, from across the church and between the traditions. And it is a great place to catch up with your friends. None of us knows, of course, if we will be returning. After the last General Election we know that anything can happen when you ask people to vote – the most surprising things!
I’ve been billeted on part of the York Campus in which I’ve never stayed before – Alcuin. It feels a long way from the Central Hall where all the sessions are held but I haven’t yet ventured from my room, so I don’t really know. I always have to unpack first – I can’t settle without doing that. I have a need to create a little nest and putting things way, in the drawers, in the wardrobe and leaving the room neat and the suitcase hidden away is my way of doing that.
I also didn’t arrive in time for the meeting of the Convocation. This is the gathering of all the clergy and had been called so that we could give further consideration and final approval to ‘The Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy’. I was sorry to miss the meeting as the guidelines are really important. But I couldn’t leave Southwark until I had led the final service of the year for Cathedral School.
In fact it was a fantastic service. The whole of Year 5 sat on the tower space with me and the service involved every one of them and most of them reflecting on their time in Cathedral School and what they had to give thanks for. It was extremely moving, and the things that they said about the teachers and their parents and what they had learnt and the way in which they had grown in confidence was very affecting.
The youngest were sitting right at the front, watching these older children speak. They must have seemed very old to them but just as with these five years of this Synod those leaving all said that their time in the school had flown past – so it won’t be long before the children in Reception are leaving. I was just immensely proud of the children and of the whole school community.
What do these days in York hold for us? Well just as when you are getting ready to leave somewhere there are those final tasks to do, clear the fridge, empty the bins, take the cat to the cattery, water the plants and wind the clock. It is that that we are doing here – metaphorically speaking. So there are a lot of loose ends to be tied up, final approvals to be given, and last words to be said. But there is something that is of major importance and that is combatting climate change and how our investment policies can assist us in that. In the light of the Pope’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ this is very timely and it will be good to bring this particular five years to a conclusion not with an inward looking debate on the church but an outward looking debate on the world.
If you’re wondering who Alcuin was, after whom the college I am in is named, well, according to Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne he was “The most learned man anywhere to be found.” He was born in Northumberland in 734 and died in 804 when he was Abbot of Tours. He had been part of the community at York Minster and is very well known as a writer and especially with a concern for the liturgy of the church. He really is a great saint – so I’m happy to be on the edge of the campus in this college.
But I must get to the Chamber – after I have asked you to pray for us, please.
Almighty God, you have given your Holy Spirit to the Church to lead us into all truth: bless with the Spirit’s grace and presence the members of the General Synod; keep them steadfast in faith and united in love, that they may manifest your glory and prepare the way of your kingdom; 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. Amen.