I’ve just returned from my first ever General Synod of the Church of England (Suffragan Bishops like myself are not automatically members of Synod, unlike Diocesan Bishops). It was an interesting and varied experienced – some very significant moments (like the address from the Iraqi Archbishop about the desperate plight of Christians in his country, and the decision to reshape training for vicars) and some rather dull and boring bits (including the deep irony of the “simplification task group” producing a 50 page report!)
Right at the end of the Synod came a report titled Growing the Rural Church (http://bit.ly/1AiqGRA). It is a report full of hope and optimism for the future while also sounding an urgent call to action. Essentially its message is that rural churches can grow and thrive (and it gives a number of good examples – and we have plenty more in Gloucestershire) but this only happens when lay people are encouraged and enabled by their clergy to take on significant leadership roles, and when there is an openness to change and new ways of doing things.
This will not surprise anyone who lives and works in a rural area. It is hard work and demands real courage from clergy and lay leaders, as well as real skill in change management. This is why, as a diocese, we are putting significant resources into training lay leaders and helping our clergy make the transition to new models of ministry. There are exciting possibilities for churches of all sizes who are ready to work with God in the new thing God is doing in our rural communities.
The Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow.