The focus of the Armagh Diocesan Synod was very much on looking to the future ministry of the church and the diocese. This was clearly evident in Archbishop Richard’s presidential address, in the reports from the diocesan boards (which have been rebranded and refocused over the past 18 months) and in the presentation from the diocesan team who took part in an IDLE (inter diocesan learning experience). Their presentation being aptly named ‘New Adventures in Ministry’ and set the challenge for each parish grouping to consider what one new thing they could start within the next 12 months that could make a real difference to their local community.
Extracts from the Archbishop’s Address:
2019 marks 150 years since the Church of Ireland was disestablished. But even though next year’s celebration will be in part about history and change (and as a student of history I welcome that), it will also be an opportunity to ask ourselves what we wish to become, where we need to set our face, and if we can indeed face the future with the same courage that was shown by our predecessors in 1869. Perhaps we need to use the opportunity to have a reality check - a health check - to see what the years and decades have made of us as a Church, and what we need to do in order to have a healthy future, rather than simply to “stagger on” for a few more years.
And it is with this in mind that I would like, for a few minutes, to look at different aspects of health and wholeness.
First of all, as a Church and as a diocese: There seems little doubt that we might indeed manage to “hang on” as a community for another generation or two, even as the world around us changes radically, and ignores us ever more disdainfully in the rising tide of secularisation and self-absorption. But is that all there is to our ambitions for the Kingdom of God – survival as an institution for the time being? It was Our Lord who said that whoever seeks only to save his or her life will assuredly lose it.
Part of the continuing good health of any Christian community is the degree to which it looks outside itself and its own continued existence and it is worth reflecting that real health is not achieved when we simply wrap ourselves up and refuse to take any steps outside familiar and unruffled surroundings.
I have spoken about “health” in what are principally metaphorical terms, but I want to mention one aspect of health and this is far from metaphorical. It is the immense upsurge, particularly among young people in problems of mental health. In a recent survey in Northern Ireland, over 40% of 16-25 year olds said that they had experienced a mental health problem, and nearly 70% that they “always or often” feel stressed. I was grateful that our youth and children’s ministry group provided a mental health first aid course for some of those involved with ministry among young people. We need to be alert to the needs of our young people but, equally, not to simplify the possible causes of mental health problems or to imagine that any of us has the expertise to deal with any and every situation. We also need to accept that mental ill-health is not an issue only for the young. Many older people, suffer isolation or depression and do not have the confidence to look for help from others. To be alert to the suffering of others without being intrusive or overbearing is a difficult balance to bring to our relationships.
For a full version of the address please click here
And for photo gallery click here