Hope can be achieved by small steps – Meath and Kildare Diocesan Synod 2019

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Hope can be achieved by small steps was a theme that ran through speeches and the business of the Meath and Kildare Diocesan Synod. It took place on Saturday 28th September, in the Oak Centre, in Dunboyne.

In her President’s address Bishop Pat Storey began with a reminder of the diocesan vision statement – ‘Together in God’s love transforming lives’. She talked of how we are living in a time when hope is needed. She highlighted that vision and hope can be achieved by a series of small steps.

Bishop Pat thanked clergy and parishes for their response to the findings of the Diocesan Consultation, as presented to the 2018 diocesan synod. This year a report was presented to members of synod detailing the great variety of initiatives being planned by parishes across the diocese. These came from meetings held in every parish union across the diocese, during the summer of 2019.

Bishop Storey also expressed appreciation for the work of the diocesan team and volunteers who did much work behind the scenes. Members of the synod were also encouraged to visit the wide range of stalls and to engage with the stall holders.

Proposing the report of the Diocesan Council, Laura Bagnall talked of the importance of the Church being intentional in both in our mission and personal discipleship. In seconding the report Archdeacon Leslie Stevenson was mindful of the challenges in approaching the future, but reminded listeners that confidence was rooted in a sense that God was in control.

A range of speakers responded to the speeches that presented the report of the Diocesan Council. Speakers highlighted the importance of welcome as well as the significant new responsibilities that come from compliance. Amongst the speakers was Rev Katharine Poulton, rector of Julianstown. She had attended the Anglican Consultative Council in Hong Kong earlier this year. In recognising the challenges the Church in Ireland faces she put this in the context of very serious challenges that parts of the Church rise courageously to in other parts of the world.

The importance of being a diocese that not only “focus(es) on ourselves but are willing to help alleviate the needs of others” was an important theme throughout the business of synod. As part of this commitment the diocesan ‘Mind Yourself’ project was highlighted. This included presentations from Rosemary Carvill, National Support Group Co-ordinator for Aware. She talked  about their work in the areas of depression and anxiety. It is estimated that up to 12% of the population experience depression at some time. Information about the support available, including support groups, can be found at www.aware.ie.

Synod also heard from Sr Joan Roddy, who has worked for many years in the area of Direct Provision and refugees. She reminded us of the simple but profound truth that refugees are people. She gave a valuable insight into the experience of being a refugee and the difficulties they face. Sr Joan quoted the thoughts of one refugee who said, “Being a refugee is like having someone press a pause button on the story of your life.”The unknown length of time in the Direct Provision system can present one of the greatest mental health challenges. ‘Mind Yourself’ includes work with those in Direct Provision.

‘Mind Yourself’ is highlighting the issue of mental health and pointing people to where they might find help and support. The project includes healing services through the coming year and a special event in All Saints Church, Mullingar on World Mental Health Day (17th October at 8pm). Kristen O’Reilly who spoke on RTE this year about the struggle with mental health after the premature death of her mother will be speaking at the event. The next clergy conference will also address the theme of self care for clergy. One of the more unusual events, that will raise funds for organisations working in the area of mental health, is a diocesan Sky Dive on Saturday 9th November .

Reports were also heard from the Diocesan Board of Education. Appreciation was expressed for the work of schools across the diocese, and for the work of the diocesan Board of Education throughout the year.

A presentation regarding the work of Mothers’ Union was made by the MU Diocesan President, Sylvia Wheatley. She talked about the mission and values of the Mothers’ Union, as well as the work of MU throughout the dioceses. This included social events, Services, as well participation in the Day of Action against gender-based violence.

Synod also had an opportunity to reflect and comment on proposed changes to the representation of General Synod. The proposals include a suggested reduction in membership of General Synod. Reports were presented by Canon Isaac Hanna and Joan Bruton. Speakers were broadly supportive of the process and prosposed changes.

The synod began with a service of Holy Communion in the adjoining church of St Peter, before business began at 12pm. There was a break for an excellent lunch, also served in the Oak Centre. Business concluded at 3pm.