Bishop welcomed to first Diocesan Synod

First published on: 14th November 2022

St John’s Church and Centre, Meopham were the setting for Diocesan Synod which took place on Saturday 12 November.
The agenda included presentations on the 2023 Budget, the journey to Net-zero, health care chaplaincy, as well as an update on Safeguarding and a report from General Synod.

It was also Bishop Jonathan’s first Diocesan Synod, to which he was extended a warm welcome by all those present.

Bishop gives first presidential address

In giving his first Presidential Address, Bishop Jonathan affirmed the existing Called Together diocesan vision, and outlined three themes he believes will be important in helping fulfil this vision in the coming years: Change, Grow, Serve.

He spoke of the empowering nature of the hope that we have in Jesus that will guide us and give us confidence in this work:

“We have hope and that hope can give us confidence when others are fearful – confidence to change and to try new things, confidence to serve and to step outside our comfort zone, confidence to believe we can grow and to have a go, knowing that, even if we fail, God is there to pick us up and set us on the way once more.”

He said how, over the next few months, he would like to see an exploration of some key aspects to help refine and sharpen our shared vision, so that we can set some clear objectives for what we want to achieve under God.

The areas include how we should be:

  • Working clearly and intentionally towards our congregations and our leadership becoming on average both younger and more diverse, so that they reflect more fully the communities that we serve.
  • Seeking to grow our congregations and to grow new ones, working in partnership with and supported by our existing churches, not in competition with them.
  • Seeking to increase our impact in our local communities, so that we are making a bigger difference to the lives of those around us, demonstrating the love of Christ in practical and visible ways.

Download Bishop Jonathan’s address

Budgetary matters

Nigel Pope, the Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance presented the 2023 Budget. He thanked all churches for their generous offers to the Common Fund, which underpin mission and ministry across the Diocese.

As part of his presentation, he highlighted the number of grants that had been made available to support clergy in hardship, and also the support to help churches with their energy costs.

So far, 131 parishes had applied for an Energy Costs Support Fund grant, with Rochester Diocese being the only diocese to have added additional funds to the initial Church Commissioners’ grant – something the Diocese is pleased to do.

Other headlines included:

  • The 2023 Budget for the Common Fund presented to Diocesan Synod showed a deficit of £1.49 million.
  • This compared to the 2022 Budget of £1.54million and the latest 2022 Forecast deficit of £1.64 million. 

Nigel explained that the Diocesan Budget continued to be impacted by the pandemic, and the cost of living crisis, but actions in the last three months to manage our financial situation, together with national assistance, provided confidence in the ability to contain the deficit.

Whilst being very aware of the difficulties that parishes are facing, he said it underlined how critical their generous Parish Offers are in sustaining and building the work of the kingdom. He repeated his thanks again to parishes and individuals for their continuing generosity. 

The Budget was carried.

Journey to Net Zero

Claire Boxall, Called Together Manager then updated Synod on some of the preliminary data being gathered on carbon emissions and work around the Diocese on reaching Net Zero.

The number of churches signing up for Eco Church was growing and 33% of our churches had completed or partially completed the Energy Footprint Tool - thank you.

She also spoke about the assessment work being carried out on clergy housing to see how their energy efficiency could be improved. One clerical Synod member shared how they were already seeing the benefit of some newly installed upgraded insulation, for which they were most grateful.

Some interesting points were raised from the floor around the impact of IT usage on the environment, and how more joined up thinking was needed to help parishes search for energy providers.

Healthcare chaplaincy

The Rev Ruth Bierbaum, Lead Chaplain at Medway Maritime Trust, shared her experience of hospital chaplaincy and the impact of Covid on chaplains, patients, as well as healthcare staff and organisations.

She spoke about her own calling, and how she sees her role as being about sharing person-centred care and reminding organisations about the humanity of the patient.

She explained how, in recent years, there had been a move to healthcare chaplaincy being a particular calling, rather than an extension of parish work, and that chaplains were very much specialist coordinators of pastoral and spiritual care. 

It meant healthcare chaplains were very embedded in their healthcare organisation, but also that there was an imperative on chaplains to maintain connections with their parish and diocesan structure.

Other business

Other business included an update from Archdeacon Andy Wooding Jones as Bishop’s Lead for Safeguarding, on how, following the recently published Past Cases Review 2, and the final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel was now looking at the recommendations and updating the diocesan safeguarding plan accordingly. 

Thanks was given to the ongoing work of the Safeguarding Team, and Synod adopted the updated national Guidance on Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable people.  Representatives were encouraged, as part of the cascade process, to ensure that this guidance was passed to their parishes and was being followed.

Finally, Jane Rosam reported back on the July meeting of the national General Synod.  She reminded delegates that Rochester representatives to General Synod were happy to be invited to come and talk to parishes and local synods about their role, and General Synod itself.

Diocesan Synod next meets in March 2023 in Tonbridge Archdeaconry. Minutes from Diocesan Synod are placed online once they have been approved by Bishop’s Council. Find them at:

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