New General Synod representatives share their first experiences

21st November 2021

The Bath and Wells General Synod representatives travelled to London to take part in the first full in-person meeting of Synod since February 2020. They group were elected to the 11th Synod this autumn for a five-year term. Revd Jo Stobart, the vicar of Ilminster and Whitelackington Benefice is one of Bath and Wells newest members of Synod as is lay representative Matt Orr, who works part time for Movement and is studying theology at Trinity College, Bristol.

Matt's report

Where to start with the weird, yet wonderful, world of General Synod? Firstly, it was a real privilege to represent Bath and Wells. You meet all sorts of people, from all over the country, but it was always a pleasure to say I’ve travelled across from Bath and Wells. However, it was made pretty clear, pretty quick, that I wasn’t just representing Bath and Wells - looking around the room it was obvious that myself and a few others were skewing the average age… Perhaps it was my fresh face, or perhaps it was my white trainers/black jeans/nice shirt combo, or perhaps it was just the reaction people had when I told them my age, either way, it was apparent that 23 years olds don’t often get elected to Synod. I’m excited to bring a young voice and perspective to the table, and I’m happy to say that I’m not alone in my early twenties. I’m also happy to say that the younger generation, on the whole, felt well received from those who have been in Synod or in the church longer than we’ve been alive. And although there were a few individuals who metaphorically tried to put their arm around our young shoulders, as if to say “follow me and you’ll be all good”, I’m excited to simply be myself - an encouragement Bishop Ruth continued to share with me.

Whilst the induction day and inauguration were great to be a part of, it wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon came around and the real sessions began that I really got a feel for Synod life. In the politest way I can put this, you quickly learn who came with their agendas and who might like the sound of their own voice. But you also learn why the little things matter, why our questions are important, and you learn that there are hundreds of people passionate enough to sacrifice their own time and efforts to try and make a positive difference. Furthermore, you begin to understand why our votes matter!

As an extroverted, extrovert I really enjoyed my first trip to Synod. I loved meeting people from across our broad church family and sharing stories of God at work in our lives, churches and dioceses. I loved sharing about my work at Movement, and the incredible things God is doing through it across the South West. But most importantly, I listened. It was brilliant to hear the debates, reports and questions that are shaping our church. It was so important to hear the vast array of opinions and theological perspectives that we have in the CofE - even the ones I completely disagreed with! I’m very aware I’ve got a lot to learn and I pray I’ll always remain humble and open to the Spirit’s leading throughout my Synod career. But I’m thankful for the opportunity God has provided to represent Bath and Wells, to represent the younger generation, and, hopefully, to represent Christ well throughout my time at General Synod.

Jo's report

As a new member of General Synod I headed up to London with a certain sense of trepidation, but also excitement. I have (like many of you reading this) strong feelings about some of the issues likely to face us over the next quinquennium,  but I like to think I’m also ready to listen to the views of others. Coming from a central tradition in the Church of England can sometimes feel that you are a bit in the minority these days.

Of course I’d read the reports on General Synod in the Church Times and Stephen Lynas’ excellent blog posts, but nothing can quite prepare you for the real thing. Looking from the outside, I suspect some of what General Synod does might feel incredibly arcane, but as a legislative body the precise detail of things really matters. It was comforting to also talk about some of the big picture stuff that ordinary church members do (or should) worry about – our vision and mission, how the wealth of the church is shared, how we care for the poor and marginalised in our society. Meeting with lay and ordained representatives from all over the country was a reminder to me, down here in our little bit of Somerset, that our church is living and telling the story of God’s love all over this land and the way in which, through our denomination, and as members of the Body of Christ, we are one.

I came home shattered, but with my head buzzing, and ready – I think – to do it all again in February. All of your Bath & Wells reps would be delighted to hear from you with questions and ideas (don’t forget you can watch General Synod livestreamed on the C of E’s website and afterwards on YouTube). This is your church, so do get involved. Both locally and nationally the future holds plenty to challenge us, but as the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, reminded us, the fields are ready to be harvested.

Jo has written a longer blog about her first experience of General Synod.