The Down and Dromore Diocesan Synod met on 24 June for the first time since 2019 and the onset of the COVD–19 pandemic. The meeting was Bishop David’s first as our bishop, and the first ‘hybrid’ Synod in our history. Shankill Parish hosted a small number of people whilst Synod members joined on Zoom.
In this season of uncertainty but also of opportunity, Bishop David used his first Presidential Address to share what he described as “my dream, my hope, my prayer and my intent” for the diocese.
He began, however, with the assurance that his thoughts and prayers were with those who had been bereaved or impacted adversely by the pandemic. People have, the bishop acknowledged, “suffered in a multitude of ways and are still being affected”.
“However,” he said, “the church is a community where faith, hope and love triumph,” and called the diocese to the work of Discipleship, Leadership and Apostleship.
“Regardless of where society around us is at, the Great Commission and command of Jesus to make disciples always remains at the centre of the church’s task,” he said. “Nothing negates that, not lockdown, not Covid–19, not apparent lack of finance – quite literally ‘in sickness and in health’, the command of Christ to His Church in every age and in all circumstances and in every place is to make disciples.” The bishop went on to outline some key elements of this work in a parish context.
On leadership, Bishop David emphasised the need for the diocese to raise up, train, equip and release godly leaders at every level in the life of our church, diocese, parishes and communities. He set out 10–year goals including putting forward a significant number of men and women for ordained ministry and training more Diocesan Readers, Evangelists and Church Plant leaders.
Turning to apostleship, the bishop said he believed it was again a time in history when the church must courageously and lovingly speak truth to power. He said: “Today’s world needs a church that will demonstrate in practical ways God’s grace and kindness, a church that addresses issues of poverty, of justice and of social need, while at the same time proclaiming clearly the good news of the gospel through saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”
Bishop David expressed his gratitude that, even during lockdown and a worldwide pandemic the diocese had exercised apostolic type leadership – initiating new ministries, planting new churches, employing new staff and putting in place new initiatives.
“Like the apostles in the New Testament, we move forward prioritising evangelism as the life blood of the church, preaching and teaching the air that we breathe, pastoral care and healing, our hands and our feet, in every way doing the work the apostles did,” he said.
Bishop David concluded: “We build, we rebuild, we move forward believing in the God of the one true holy catholic and apostolic church, a church that is built on discipleship, leadership and apostleship on a sure and solid foundation, the rock who is Jesus Christ.”
The usual Synod business took place in the afternoon with Synod members participating live over Zoom. The Report of the Diocesan Council was grouped under the three headings of Discipleship, Leadership and Apostleship and was accompanied by a series of short inspirational videos which you can view using the link below. The Synod also voted over Zoom to adopt the amendments to the Diocesan Regulations.
We are very grateful to the team at Shankill Parish for hosting us and taking on the substantial technical challenges of a ‘hybrid’ Synod. Even with all the limitations upon us it was a very encouraging day!