Sam Follett is one of 6 lay representatives for the Diocese of St Albans on the General Synod of the Church of England. Sam, the youngest member of General Synod, aims specifically to bring the voice of young people to the leadership structures of the Church and help Synod understand ways it can continue to reach and support younger people. He also hopes to inspire more young people to get involved with the leadership of the Church and bring their energy, ideas and passion to serve God and his Kingdom.
General Synod – July 2011
2011-07-12 22:00 by Sam Follett
Just travelling back from York where, this afternoon, we came to the close of the third group of sessions of the Quinquennium. My first time in York, it was a very different experience to that I have had of General Synod so far. We stay residentially at the University of York and therefore live our lives alongside one another, eating and worshipping together, for the five days.
I enjoyed the greater informality of this group of sessions and also the opportunity to spend time chatting with a wide range of people from different areas and churchmanship. I spent, too, a little time with the reps and observers from the Church of England Youth Council (CEYC) of whom I knew very little about before this weekend.
There were a number of brilliant addresses given over the course of Synod, all of which were not only delivered well, but spoke of deeply important matters and brought some very helpful insights. My two highlights:
The Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania spoke about the ‘resurrection’ of the church in Albania, following great persecution. This was not only inspiring, but somewhat put into perspective the ease with which we can live out our faith in the UK and challenged me personally to make the most of that freedom and to speak more openly about the importance of my faith with my friends that are not yet Christians.
The Archbishop of Canterbury also shared some very apt words with the Synod. The most significant for me was the soundbite that Christianity is “not good advice, but good news!” We put too much emphasis on telling people how they should act and forget to share the Good News of what Christ has done for them.
Parochial Fees Order 2011
The Parochial Fees Order 2011 set out more uniformity in fees for weddings and funerals. The debate was far more exciting than I had anticipated! Some felt the fees were too low, some too high. As churches can no longer charge for heating outside of the set fees, it was felt the fees were too low to cover these costs. Some, however felt that we needed to consider the poor and ensure a greater financial accessibility.
National Mission Action Planning
Another interesting debate as we discussed whether there should be a Mission Action Plan set for the National Church, as well as for Diocese and Parishes. There was no argument that mission is not a top priority for our Church, but is a MAP the right way to set National strategy? The Synod carried the motion.
Ecumenical Business: Anglican-Methodist COvenant & United Reformed Church
The agenda had a great ecumenical ‘feel’ to it, with a number of guests from other churches and items of business relating to our continuing partnership with the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. In both debates everyone was on the same page and Synod expressed its desire that we continue to work together ecumenically.
Admission of Baptised Adults to Communion
An interesting proposal from Bradford Diocese that we should, as is currently the case with Children, we should not require adults to be Confirmed (nor desirous to be Confirmed) before receiving Holy Communion. There was some great debate about the importance of Confirmation and about how we can make our services more accessible and welcoming to those who are not Christians. I had hoped to deliver my maiden speech in this debate, but was not called. I shall try again!
Additional Eucharistic Prayers
Some fantastic new Eucharistic Prayers, to be used when there is a significant number of children present, have been drafted and were committed for revision by Synod. Some important points were raised about amendments, but the general feeling was that these will be a great addition.
Minority Ethnic Anglican COncerns
Minority ethnic concerns were discussed in a debate about ‘positive intentionality’. Synod made a number of commitments to monitor the Church’s progress in this area.
The Church and Education
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the National Society, and in the midst of great changes in our educational system, Synod discussed the great opportunities we have as a Church through our schools and our influence in the world of education. The call was clear for us to take seriously religious education and teaching about Christianity as an opportunity for mission.
Question time was of particular interest for me because of the questions relating to the Regeneration Summit which I chaired back in March (see regenerationsummit.org). Archbishops Council committed to listening to young people as part of its Going for Growth strategy and to study the Regeneration recommendations very carefully, when they are published.