Diocesan Synod: 9 June


Synod opened with Morning worship, and the needs of members of the diocese were held in prayer.

Bishop Robert's Presidential Address:

In his opening address, Bishop Robert reflected on what has, for many people, been an impossibly difficult year. Bishop Robert spoke of the effects of the Pandemic within our local communities, in a multitude of ways, and the response from people across the Diocese:

“From my perspective as bishop, I look back with extraordinary gratitude and thanksgiving. I have witnessed remarkable endurance, resilience and, indeed, success. Our clergy and lay leaders rapidly adapted to worship conducted on Zoom, Facebook live and Youtube. Communities worked hard to stay in touch with those who are particularly vulnerable. Social mission such as feeding projects for migrants and refugees continued in the most challenging of circumstances... I reflect that our Diocese is about people and we have some really excellent people!”

Bishop Robert spoke of the importance of a team of free-standing stipendiary Archdeacons, and of the professional safeguarding and (now expanding) communications teams. Bishop Robert also announced the appointment of The Revd Ray Andrews as Diocesan Advisor in Spirituality, succeeding The Revd Canon John Newsome. You can read an interview with Ray about his role as Diocesan Advisor in Spirituality here.

Bishop Robert’s address also covered areas of mission and ministry. Archdeacon Leslie Nathaniel updated on the Racial Justice agenda, including the current audit of chaplaincies, following up the Breathing Life Report. The Eco Diocese agenda is “trying to share the message that care for creation and the climate challenge is a discipleship issue and not anything less, which is at the heart of our strategy,” said Andrew Caspari, Chief Operating Officer. A key theme is the developing relationship between our Young People’s Network and our work on climate change. A pan-diocesan event, bringing together our eco- and young people’s ministry, is planned in early September. This is ahead of the Conference of Parties (COP-26) meeting in Glasgow in November. You can read more about our Diocesan Eco agenda here.

Bishop Robert emphasised work with children and young people, because he said he feels “particularly distressed by the impact that Covid has had on their young lives.” Bishop Robert highlighted the work of those in chaplaincies who have kept some kind of children’s and young people’s work going over the pandemic. He commended Celia Paterson (St George’s, Madrid) for her training work on Godly Play, and thanked Richard Bromley, who is now stepping back from our Youth Network, for all he has done to encourage young people in the diocese. 

You can read Bishop Robert’s full Presidential Address here. 

Photo: Helsinki chaplaincy youth work in action!

Lessons learned from Covid-19:

Discussion groups discussed the lessons learned from Covid-19 across chaplaincies. Feedback included: thanks for the medical and technological advancements over recent decades; theological reflections; equality/inclusivity of online services; the benefits of hybrid church; financial costs/savings; the importance of face-to-face gathering; sharing resources across chaplaincies; and the overall benefits/challenges of online services.


The Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Caspari, described the Diocesan financial position as both ‘resilient and fragile’. He was aware that this would be a very tough year for many chaplaincies and he urged a focus on strategies to increase giving in chaplaincies. This will strengthen the local position as well as that of the Diocese in due course.

Diocesan Synod members are also the members of the Diocesan Board of Finance which held its AGM. The Annual Report and Financial Statements were formally approved and the members showed their appreciation for the outcome and the work of the Diocesan Staff.

The accounts for 2020 show a surplus of just under £10,000. However, if £70,000 had not been held over in the Hardship Fund and a £210,000 grant had not be received from the Archbishops' Council, a deficit of £270,000 would have been the outcome.

Nearly 95% of the Common Fund requested was paid by chaplaincies who were warmly thanked for their remarkable generosity in a difficult year. A new financial plan including deficit funding of £1.4 million over the next three years has been approved.

Conduct in the Diocese:

Synod also received short presentations of current important initiatives on Conduct in the Diocese, including the 5C use of email Pledge, Chaplaincy Guides, A Guide to a Well Run Chaplaincy Council and the work of the Diocesan Anti-Bullying Working Group. You can read about the 5C use of email pledge here. 

Concluding session:

In the concluding session, Bishop Robert thanked members who have served on this Synod. “A synod is literally a walking together, and we have walked together in faith through good times and through very difficult times,” he said. The election process for the next three-year term of Diocesan Synod is now underway.

Synod concluded with Evening worship. 


Story:  Jamie Ellis, Damian Thwaites

Design: Amber Jackson