Presidential Address Diocesan Synod: St Peter’s Battersea 13 July 2022

Members of Synod,

It is good to be here – and good that this is the second time we have gathered in this very recently built House of God – and it is entirely fitting that we should give thanks for the many blessings in our life together in this Diocese, which is the focus of my words this evening.

We have been very blessed this Petertide in the consecration of Rosemarie Mallett to serve as the Bishop of Croydon and the following day – with Bishop Rosemarie present together with Bishop Richard and Bishop Karowei – the joyful ordination of sixteen deacons at the Cathedral, now serving as new curates in their sixteen parishes. The following Saturday, twenty priests were ordained across the three Episcopal Areas in addition to the two priests ordained by The Bishop of Maidstone and The Bishop of Fulham in the parishes where I am glad to extend episcopal care through them. This is undoubtedly a cause for great rejoicing – but there is a ‘yet more’ because one of those to be deaconed and two of those to be priested were laid low by Covid – so there are still three ordinations to come at Michaelmas which will be undertaken by the Bishop of Croydon and Bishop of Kingston respectively! It is inspiring to see so many people beginning new phases of ministry and I look forward to how the Lord will shape them in the coming years. I urge you all to keep these our brothers and sisters in your prayers as they unpack the gifts of ministry – for ministry must be received as much as it is offered. Remarkably ten of our new curates are committing to some form of pioneer ministry.

Because life and ministry in the Church of God is both vocational and relational, those who are ordained are charged to work with others in their community to share the Good News of Christ in joyful partnerships. We each have a vocation through the call of God on our lives in Holy Baptism, and we are all constituted by our relationships, made persons because we relate to God and to one another. That is why the Season of Lay Ministries that we are currently celebrating is so significant. I am greatly encouraged by the way in which so many of our parishes have embraced this Season in recognition of the gifts of all God’s people and begun to celebrate the great spectrum of lay witness to God’s love in each of our parish communities. Some spend a great deal of time and care making sure that everything is ready in their churches for the offering of worship day by day. We are thankful that our churches are cleaned, there are flowers, and music, and all that this says about hallowing the house of God as sacred space. Some serve as welcomers, others offer hospitality when worship has concluded. Others read the Scripture lessons, lead intercessions, serve as part of a liturgical team, or look after sound production and online facilities. More still, once nourished and fed by worship and the sacrament of communion, take the love of God out into the community – helping at food banks, or visiting those who are isolated at home, or assisting at night shelters, or as Street Pastors. There are many and various ways in which people serve God and show God’s love to their neighbour. It is good and right to acknowledge and celebrate these acts of service.

The Season of Lay Ministries – which we are marking for the first time and for which I give my personal thanks – has allowed us all to think about new ministries more recently recognised for which training is now available. This is helping us to make sure that those who already undertake certain roles – such as working with our children and young people, or growing a new fresh expression of church – are recognised for what they do and are trained well.

The authorisation of these ministries complements the authorisations that have been available over many years: as Reader, as Southwark Pastoral Auxiliary, as Church Army Evangelist, and (more recently) as commissioned Pioneer Lay Minister. These new ministries can be offered in three different modes: affirmed, that is discerned, trained and recognised locally; commissioned, that is discerned, trained and recognised across the Diocese; or licensed, where ministry is discerned and trained here in Southwark and recognised nationally.

Christ came that we might have life and have it abundantly (Jn 10.10). The outworking of our Baptism is that all God’s people should flourish. To borrow St Paul’s words from his First Letter to the Corinthians: ‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all are members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptised into one Body … and we were all made to drink of one Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12. 12-13).

As we give thanks for the great blessing given and received in the recent ordinations to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, let us also give thanks for the blessing that is life in the Body of Christ of all the Baptised. As we say, Sunday by Sunday: ‘We are the Body of Christ.  In the one Spirit we were all baptised into the one body. Let us then pursue all that makes for peace and builds up our common life.’ The Season of Lay Ministries is helping to ensure that all those who participate in sharing the Good News are recognised, acknowledged, respected and honoured – in other words building up our common life. Let this be so, pray God, among us.

God of our calling,
Who in baptism set us on the path of witness and a life of service;
draw us deeper into that life and further on to that path,
that in the ministry to which you call us
your Good News may be told and your Kingdom revealed. Amen.