A Meeting of the Diocesan Synods of the United Diocese of Tuam Limerick and Killaloe was held at Hotel Woodstock in Ennis on Saturday 14th October 2023.
The conference began at 10:45 with a service of Holy Communion, using the set readings for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.
Bishop Michael preached on the Gospel passage Matthew 22: 1-14 which he said would also form his Presidential Address. In his sermon Bishop Michael took the parable of the wedding banquet in which the King sends out servants with wedding invitations who are killed by those the king is inviting. The king then sends out more servants inviting guests to the wedding feast but again those invited kill the messengers and ignore their invitation. Finally, the king sent an army to kill those who and destroy their city. The king then sends out his servants to the streets to gather those they could find to fill the wedding hall. However, the kings see one of the guests has not dressed appropriately in wedding clothes and the king has him tied hand and foot and banished into outer darkness.
Bishop Michael explained it was important to realise the context in which Matthew wrote these words. They were written after Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. The Jewish people had been punished for breaking their original covenant with God. Matthew quotes this parable to suggest that this would lead to a new young church which would become the new and true Israel. The bishop linked this to the destruction we see today in Israel.
The parable also showed the woeful tradition of antisemitism, Bishop Michael said. Antisemitism hasn’t gone away in our apparently civilised world, it still exists. Racism is a pyramid where apparently trivial remarks can fuel hatred at the top. In our society today we see prejudice and racism, we see how people who are different are not welcomed or accepted in our communities and that includes our church community. The bishop wondered whether structures such as this synod were truly representative of our church and our wider communities, did they proportionately represent the different cultures, orientations and if not why not?
Bishop Michael recalled that the pectoral cross he was given when he became bishop in 2006 had a Greek inscription on the reverse – gate of the sheep – meaning that he was to the gatekeeper, in the porch – welcoming those that are inside and outside. He said he was a nervous observer, seeing the under representation of colour, LBGTQ+, traveller, those suffering from domestic abuse. He took his hat off to those who were here.
He felt that the message for this synod should be to embrace people as they are so that we can all accept Christ’s invitation to the feast. The motto for the synod should be to correct what is amiss and supply what is lacking.
Bishop Michael then invited us to sit in silence for a few minutes to meditate and think about that message and the tasks before us, to pray for the Holy land, in all its travail, to remember the sick especially our colleague Maebh O’Herlihy and remember those departed who were part of this body.
The synod then moved to the business of the day.
The routine matters were dealt with quickly and efficiently.
There were a series of elections to different diocesan bodies, including the Limerick board for Education and then the triennial elections for the Diocesan Councils, Diocesan Nominators, Episcopal Electors and Diocesan Representatives for both Limerick and Killaloe Diocese and Tuam Diocese.
Following the Suspension of Standing Orders greetings were received from the Most Revd Fintan Monahan the Bishop of Killaloe who had been attending the synod earlier and Revd Steven Foster delivered greetings from the Methodist church.
Education Advisor to the Bishops’ Appeal, Hilary McClay then addressed the synod, explaining that the Appeal was celebrating 50 years since it was founded and thanking parishes for their support. Hilary detailing the projects supported by the Appeal and was grateful that Bishop Michael will be supporting one of them in his Peregrinations visiting every church in the diocese in November.
After lunch, the Synod received and approved the reports of the Diocesan Councils and approved motions that these councils should be elected by this synod for 3 years.
It was also agreed that the L&K United Youth Council should come together with support from TKA to form one United Diocesan Youth Council.
In a similar way the Synod voted to merge the previous separate Diocesan Councils for Mission into one united body.
A motion that the Diocesan Representative Canon of St Patrick’s Cathedral should be elected by a vote of the joint synods was approved.
The reports of the Diocesan Boards of Education were approved as were the United Dioceses Youth Council Report and the Council of Mission reports.
The Safeguarding Reports of both L&K and TKA were likewise received and approved.
There then came this private member’s motion.
“This Synod, while acknowledging the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage as set out in the
Book of Common Prayer, believes that pastoral and liturgical provision should be made for those
persons of the same sex, whose marriages have been previously recognised by law, and who wish to
have an appropriate service of prayer and dedication. This Synod therefore requests that the General
Synod and House of Bishops allow some measure of Diocesan discretion in the provision of suitable
prayers for use where such services are locally desired and acceptable and where no priest or
minister would be required to act against their conscience.”
Bishop Michael asked the each of those wishing to speak should be heard in silence and each speech should be followed by a period of silence and reflection. There followed a number of very moving testimonies, and the motion was approved by secret ballot by a large majority.
The final speaker in the synod was Revd Rob Jones, Rector of Holy Trinity Rathmines and the National Director of Pioneer Ministry. Rob spoke of the plan to shape, cultivate, and grow the pioneer movement across the Church of Ireland using pioneer ministry hubs, using volunteer and employed pioneers, as well as pioneer communities and churches.
Synod then noted reports from the Communication Officer, the Guild of Readers, the Mother’s Union, the Girls’ Friendly Society, the Protestant Aid Report and the Kirwan House and the Claremont Trust Report.
The Synod then closed at 4:45 after Bishop Michael’s closing remarks, thanking the diocesan secretaries, Heather and Lorna, for their work in organising, coordinating and running the synod and then concluded the Synod with prayer.
Stephen Fletcher Diocesan Communications Officer 15th October 2023