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Diocesan Synod: focussing on children, youth and families

Saturday 9 March saw over 70 members of the Oxford Diocesan Synod join together for their first meeting of 2024. 

Gathering at Holy Trinity Church in Hazelmere, Synod proceedings kicked off by celebrating the dedication and distinguished work of Jim Tucker as he was admitted into the Order of St Frideswide. Unable to attend the regular service earlier this year, Jim, a lay member of Diocesan Synod for the past six years, was presented by the Revd Canon Peter Moger, sub-dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.  

A cycle of contemplation, compassion and courage 

The Bishop of Oxford’s presidential address showcased a new film from the diocese that aims to bring the voices of children and young people to the fore. Over half a million children and young people live in the Diocese of Oxford, but declining numbers of under-20s in attendance at church services paint a stark picture.  

Bishop Steven praised the work of the many diocesan youth and children’s workers, both lay and ordained, and urged all present to consider what’s next. 

“Every week across the diocese clergy and lay volunteers take assemblies in local schools, church and non-church; local churches host services; children’s lives are rebuilt through the patient listening of chaplains. And yet, we know there is so much more we can do…” 

Drawing on the wisdom of Matthew 9, Bishop Steven encouraged every member of Synod into a cycle of contemplation, compassion and courage in relation to ministry to children, young people and families, the key topic of a motion and debate occurring later in the meeting. 

Who is your Luke? 

Members of the HR department then gave poignant talks on equality, diversity and inclusion. Charnelle Stylianides shared a personal account of finding inspiration every day in her son, Luke, posing the question to the room, “Who is your Luke?”  

The Revd Katie Tupling, diocesan Disability Advisor, Polly Falconer, UKME Development Enabler, and the Revd Dr Hannah Lewis, Chaplain amongst the Deaf Community, took the mantle in turn to detail their roles and visions for a more Christ-like Church, before opening the floor to questions. 

Asked how white, heterosexual, able-bodied men could help, Charnelle encouraged them to use their positions to platform others. 

“You have roles of authority in which people are willing to hear your voices - use those voices and create opportunities where the lesser heard voices can be heard. Don’t listen to the noise – this is the moment in which you’re able to show courage.” 

A recurring theme through the questions was the need for a culture change. A Synod member raised the example of being asked to sit and stand continually through a church service, and how many find that difficult and disempowering. The Revd Hannah Lewis agreed, and urged the room to consider where things are cultural – motions we’ve got used to – as opposed to embedded in doctrine and necessary to the heart of worship. 

Amplify: From Whispers to Waves 

The afternoon revisited the importance of transforming our mission with children and young people. The team of Discipleship Enablers led Synod through the five cultural shifts laid out in Disciples Together, a report from 2020 that forms the basis for the ongoing work in this focus area. 

The team, including the Bishop of Oxford, called for a step change in this ministry. Part of this change is the need to platform the voices of children and young people themselves, and work in partnership with them to turn their aspirations into actions. Amplify: From Whispers to Waves aims to do just that, working across a range of subject areas to draw children and young people into the conversation, allowing their concerns to be heard directly.  

Looking ahead 

A time of questions showed Synod to be in agreement, and the motion was unanimously passed; 2024 will be a year of cultural change and dedication to ministry with children, young people and families. 

“That this Synod endorses the need to significantly increase our engagement with children, young people, families and schools building on Disciples Together and to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and calls on every deanery and benefice in 2024 to develop plans and partnerships for growth.” 

Find out more about Diocesan Synod and how it operates.

Page last updated: Thursday 14th March 2024 11:29 AM
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