On Saturday 19th September 2020, based at a hub in Claremorris and using the ZOOM platform, TKA became the first diocese of the Church of Ireland to hold it’s Diocesan Synod during the Covid Era.
It was a very strange and even surreal experience to be logging-in and doing our business on-line, disembodied faces and electronically distorted voices on computer screens across the diocese sharing a single meeting space, but overall what needed to be accomplished was accomplished. The necessary business was completed and that in record time.
The meeting began with a virtual celebration of the Holy Communion. Then, all the various bits and pieces having been ‘laid on the table’, Bishop Rooke addressed the Synod.
Not unsurprisingly, Covid 19 hovered in the background of most of the bishop’s remarks. He began by reflecting on the adverse impact that Covid had made on the lives of ordinary people. ‘ The… pandemic and subsequent lockdown has had major implications for us all. Some two-and-a-half thousand people across the island of Ireland have lost their lives….and as a Diocesan Synod, we extend our sympathy to their loved ones.’ He also thanked those who had offered practical help to others during the crisis saying, ‘What it is to be a good neighbour took on a whole new meaning.’ adding ‘….we will remember the heroic efforts and the acknowledgement shown to all our essential workers.’ The bishop also commended those who had found new ways to communicate the faith and maintain the worship of the church in TKA during lock down.
Reflecting on internal changes in TKA, bishop Rooke highlighted the six ordinations, to diaconate and priesthood, that took place in the past year. He also spoke about parochial administrative changes which have come about, reducing the number of Cures from 8 to 5 ‘…. which will result in significant financial savings and ensure that most of our clergy are working in teams alongside other ordained colleagues. In fact, we will have more diocesan clergy than we’ve had for many a year across the Diocese as a whole.’
Discussions with Limerick diocese relating to our amalgamation have had to be placed on hold though various gatherings of clergy and laity were held before Covid began. ‘Fostering relationships is surely as good preparation as any for our future amalgamated dioceses…..So, step by step the partnership is beginning to happen.’
Speaking of mission, bishop Rooke commended the work of outreach, fresh expressions and pioneering in TKA, specifically the Ballina Churches Together Project run in partnership with Church Army. Commending the leaders of this project the bishop said ‘ I want to place on record our admiration for the courageous pioneering spirit of Emma, Marian and all those who have worked alongside them and supported them in all kinds of ways.’ He added, ‘ God forbid that we should become a Diocese that looks only to maintaining what we’ve got with no heart and no imagination for fresh expressions of ministry.’
The bishop also encouraged us to redouble our efforts in supporting overseas mission projects, specifically through Bishops Appeal.
Drawing his remarks to a close, the bishop mentioned our diocesan national schools. While expressing some concern about the circumstances of three of our five schools, bishop Rooke said, ‘ a lot of very good work goes on in our national schools and we can feel proud of the contributions they make to their respective communities.’
Needless to say, TKA Synod 2020 will long be remembered for being very different and something that we never want to have to repeat. That said, we got over line and fullfilled all righteousness. Done and dusted. Next challenge!