Paul Cartwright offers his reflections on his first Synod
The 23rd November 2010 is imprinted in my mind as a day that was filled with as much trepidation as excitement as I prepared to process into Westminster
Abbey, and later into Synod itself where Her Majesty the Queen would inaugurate the ninth General Synod of the Church of England. Having played the fanfare trumpet for the Queen and her family whenever they visited West Yorkshire, it was a great privilege to once again be in the presence of royalty, but this time it was different, as it felt as though a great weight rested upon my shoulders! This was my first outing to the Synod, a Synod which would have a great deal of work to do in its five-year term, a Synod which is likely to redefine how the Church of England will look in the future.
Changing the landscape
Once I was elected, the work for Synod began many weeks before I actually attended it, with the postal workers in my area creaking under the strain of Synod papers, although the good news for them is that the electronic transfer of information is being trialled at the moment (just imagine how much postage that will save). Synod papers, invitations to fringe meetings, ancillary information all began to arrive, and I wondered what I had let myself in for, but of course the answer to this question kept on coming back to the same thing, I was part of a Synod which is likely to change the way theChurch of England looks in the future.
But how will the Synod change the landscape? Well, this has already happened as some of our number have already left to join the Roman Church; they have continued on their pilgrim path to eventually find a place where they will feel at home and a place where it feels like they are wanted, and by the time this is published, some of the trailblazers in this second wave (the first being post-1992) will have even been ordained to the priesthood. Although this is one way in which the Catholic wing of the Church of England is able to deal with what faces us in the future, it is not the only way, and the Catholic Group in General Synod is working hard to try and open other options.
A new focus
One thing that I found interesting was the way in which the Queen rightly identified the challenges ahead for the Synod: ‘The new Synod will have many issues to resolve to ensure that the Church of England remains equipped for the effective pursuit of its mission and ministry. Some will, no doubt, involve difficult, even painful, choices. But Christian history suggests that times of growth and spiritual vigour have often coincided with periods of challenge and testing.’
The focus previously has often been on the pain experienced by those within the Church, and this is right, but our new Synod needs to move away from concentrating on the pain to concentrate on mission and ministry, putting in place that spiritual vigour which Her Majesty spoke about, and that is exactly why I put myself forward for election.
Some of my friends have questioned why I allowed myself to be elected and be part of a General Synod which will go down in history, as they see it, for killing off the true Catholic movement in our Church, but of course at this stage this is only supposition and it could as easily go down in history as the Synod that secured provision for Catholics in the national Church as the situation could still go either way. This does, however, explain why I felt as though there was a great weight resting upon my shoulders, as I will be a part of whatever happens in the future. For those of us that remain, what we need to remember is that we are still members of the Church of England, and that this is as much our Church as anyone else’s.
Regardless of what happens at Synod there will still be people in our parishes who need to be cared for and sustained by the sacraments and fed by the Gospel, and in all the debates which will take place over these coming years I think that it is important that these people should not be forgotten.
Trust and hope
Although I am not a spokesperson for the Catholic Group in Synod, I feel as though we are working hard in an attempt to safeguard some of the true Catholicity of the Church of England, and although it can feel lonely at times, we should remember that we are not alone; you only need to look at the recent vote regarding the Anglican Covenant where the liberal agenda was defeated to see this.
It is easy to think that the future is only bleak, but as I recently read in a letter from a friend which was published on his parish website, ‘Despair is a sin, and as Christians to resort to despair is a failure to look to the Lord in whom we place our hope and trust for the future’.
So please pray for your representatives in General Synod, and in particular for the Catholic Group, that it and the Church of England may be filled with spiritual vigour, as it looks to the Lord in whom we place our hope and trust for the future. ND