It could have been worse

We have a great way in England of having phrases which do the job in quite subtle ways One broadband firm, selling itself with Yorkshire grit, uses the phrase ‘That’ll do!’ as describing white rose approval for something. To the question ‘How are you?’ we invariably answer, ‘Ok thanks’ even if we feel dreadful. So when someone asked me how today has gone my answer was, ‘It could have been worse!’ Clearly it could have been but it is hardly the strap-line that the Church of England really wants, hardly a positive endorsement of who we are, not a reflection of the kingdom.

R S Thomas’ much quoted poem ‘The Kingdom’ begins with those lines

It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on

and it continues with an exploration of the way in which the kingdom of God things are healed, people are healed, things are turned round, people are turned round. Maybe we are in that place, maybe we’re not.

Anyway, I’ll come back to that but just to give you a feel of the day, we began with a Synod Eucharist which is never a liturgical highpoint but does gather us around the table sharing the meal which Jesus gives. The Archbishop of York preached on one of his favourite verses of scripture, from the psalms, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God” (Psalm 46.4) With his usual enthusiasm and down-to-earth way of looking at things it was truly refreshing. Gladness was something of which I needed to be reminded, and, to be honest, I was glad to be there.

As I have already said, there is a great deal of legislative business in this Synod. The morning began, once the cross and candles, fair linens/caterers tablecloths, chalices etc. had been taken away and the tech team had connected up all the screens and microphones we are have to use on the platform, with two pieces of business, one which was dispatched in Road Runner fashion and then the item that I was chairing. The first piece of legislation related to church schools, my item was more random. Every so often we have a Miscellaneous Provisions Measure before us, and this was such an occasion. Its purpose is to gather up all those little amendments to other pieces of legislation which are too small for a Measure of their own but would make a big difference if passed into law. This particular Measure contains clauses on bishops, dioceses, cathedrals, and much much more. Following this item was the Loyal Address and that had to be taken, so there was a timed adjournment at the end of my debate which we hit up against.

What was good was that people were engaging in debating what was before them and Synod wasn’t simply nodding it through, which was something I was fearful of after yesterdays Speedy Gonzales experience. But it does mean that we will have to resume the debate sometime tomorrow morning.

The Loyal Address was the opportunity for the Church of England to say loyal things to our Supreme Governor, King Charles III as he approaches his coronation. Archbishop Justin rightly reminded us of the faith of the Late Queen and of the commitment to faith that the King has, and his respect for all faiths. ++Justin also spoke about the privilege that we have as the Church of England to celebrate the coronation in this way.

With that privilege comes responsibility, we are the Church of England, for England and for everyone who lives in England, whoever they are. That responsibility includes the place of LGBTQI+ people as much as those who are straight. All the questions relating to LLF (Living in Love and Faith) had been kept back from yesterday’s mammoth Questions session and were dealt with before lunch. The tone was … chippy. Some things that were said were offensive but it was the usual suspects who voiced opinions that I sincerely believe are not held across the membership of Synod. But it did make some of us nervous about the afternoon.

After lunch the first item related to training for ministry. However, we were all waiting for the main performance, the second bite at the LLF cherry. This was billed as ‘Group Work’. We had been allocated into groups – laity, clergy and bishops mixed up together, and after an introduction were set off to do our work.

We all agreed not to put out on social media what people said in our discussions, and I respect that. All I will say is that as we looked at the ‘Pastoral Principles’, the ‘Prayers of Love and Faith’ and what might be in the new ‘Pastoral Guidance’ which we have yet to see. It could have been worse.

So we left the groups having heard the range of opinions and have gone off to get ready for the debate tomorrow afternoon, five hours on the subject. A great many amendments to the Motion have been submitted and it will be an ordeal, physical, emotional and spiritual. But it has to be done and I pray that those divine streams of grace will make us glad, that I’ll be able to say something more positive than ‘It could have been worse!’

One of the prayers that the bishops wish to commend might speak to us now and tomorrow

Gracious God,
from love we are made
and to love we shall return.
May our love for one another
kindle flames of joy and hope.
May the light and warmth of your grace
inspire us to follow the Way of Jesus Christ,
and serve you in your Kingdom,
now and for ever. Amen.

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