It’s been an uncertain time for many parishes who have found themselves in new deaneries, new archdeaconries and even new Episcopal Areas, but for one group of parishes, their first new deanery synod was anything but uncertain – it was affirming.
The first Harrogate Deanery Synod in the new diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales welcomed four new parishes from the Washburn valley - in their own home.
Synod was held in the stunning Washburn Heritage Centre - a modern extension to the 17th Century Fewston with Blubberhouses Church, built in 2010 with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, local residents and other funders. Fewston Church and Heritage Centre is set in the United Benefice of Washburn and the Mid-Wharfe, alongside the parishes of Farnley, Leathley and Weston with Denton.
Julie Shield, wife to Graham, the vicar of the United Benefice, said it was significant for all of them that the Harrogate Deanery came to their new members first.
“It felt like they were embracing us and welcoming us where we are. It's what the new diocese is all about; meeting people where they are,” said Julie who is also a Reader and works as an administrator in our Bradford office.
“Because there is no business being done at Synod, this was a time for getting to know each other, a time to worship and pray together,” she said.
“We had a wonderful communion service. All the apprehension we’d felt about the changes just disappeared, there was a buzz, a new energy, and a new sense of possibility all around us,” she added.
There were homemade biscuits, refreshments, excited talk about the Vision Day in Harrogate this weekend before Andy Ryland, Rural Adviser, talked about some of the rural issues they face and the need to better connect where they are.
He showed them a film with three examples of fresh expressions churches in rural communities and how they tackled mission and church growth – with some astonishing results. And he gave all the members gathered together a paper seed for each of them to write ideas on as they came to them – and asked that they plant them later.
“Getting to know each other has to be relational,” said Julie.
“And that’s what we all felt. People were buzzing, the whole place was noisy with ideas. Talking about how we could do things differently. Many were saying they wish they could have another day together to continue conversations.
“It was exciting. It was the most alive deanery synod I've ever been to,” she said.
You can find a list of all the previous parishes and which deaneries, archdeaconries and episcopal areas they now belong to below:
Churches, Benefices, Deaneries, Archdeaconries and Episcopal Areas - June 2014 (xlsx)
Parishes and Deaneries - June 2014 (xls)