The Deanery Synod met at the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Mellor.
A Celtic Evening Liturgy from the Iona Community Worship Book was used for the opening and closing devotions.
Mrs. Mary Smith, Resources Officer for the Diocese of Blackburn, gave a presentation on the theme of Giving for Life, with reference to St. Luke 12.34:
Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.
She introduced herself as a Yorkshire woman, with a tendency to speak bluntly!
She referred to Giving For Life, the Report to the General Synod of the Church of England, which was first published in 2009. A previous Report, First to the Lord, had been issued in 1999, therefore it was timely to take a fresh look at what, and how, we give back to God from His great generosity to us.
Using a powerpoint presentation, Mary introduced us to four key themes:
Generous Giving, an integral part of our Discipleship, which in turn resources God`s Mission in the world, and has an impact on our Lifestyle.
Generosity relates to the values which mark us out as Christians, whether in terms of money, as even the widow`s mite showed the level of her sacrificial giving, or in terms of our time and talents, as demonstrated by the parable of the Good Samaritan.
If we see Mission as related only to our own churches, then we are taking a blinkered view, and could be in danger of ignoring the needs of the wider church, in this country and overseas. The impact on our lifestyle should be holistic, rather than giving from any `surplus cash` that is left over and spare. Our discipleship is an ongoing challenge in good times and bad, more so even in a time of recession.
To be a Christian is to be different. Christians should talk about giving, otherwise we might only give when we feel `wealthy`, and out of any money we feel is `left over`, instead of putting God first.
Mary presented the following statistics:
In 2007, in the Blackburn Diocese, there were 19,000 planned givers in the pews.
The average level of giving was £7.18 per week. This is Good Giving, at 2.6% of an average income, yet significantly lower than other Dioceses. The national average was £9.38, per week, or 3.4% of an average income. The target, as agreed by the Diocese, of 5%, would release an extra £8.6 million for use across the Diocese and beyond.
The Diocese recognises that individuals also give generously to Charities and Projects in addition to their planned giving through Christian Stewardship. Were this to be at a level of 5%, then we would be reaching the Biblical tithe, or 10% of our income.
In his letter to the Christians in Corinth St. Paul wrote:
“Each one of us should give, then, as he has decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves one who gives gladly”. (2 Corinthians 2.7)
Mary accepted that giving varies greatly across, and within churches.
Giving for Life seeks to Transform old habits and attitudes, such as a view that Church is like a Club, to which we must pay our dues, almost like a subscription. There`s an emphasis on Nurture, taking a holistic view of our lifestyle, and Encouraging good practice, in thinking seriously about our individual levels of giving.
Each parish needs its own strategy for giving, which would be wider than merely money!
Giving regularly is not the same as fundraising, and each has a place in parish life. If increasing faith comes first, then increasing giving will follow. One comment from the meeting stressed that : “The Church has no financial problems, only spiritual problems! “ , or , in the words of John Wesley, “The last thing to be converted is the wallet (and the purse)!”
Mary recognised the generosity that is very evident in the ways in which money is raised for specific projects, in house, and for the wider Church family and community. (There is plenty of evidence of this at St. Peter`s, from the Organ Restoration Fund to our current challenge to use our Talent(s) (SG).
We were left with some questions to ask ourselves:
“How do we express our thanks for all that God has given to us?
Where exactly are we on our journey of giving? Do we give regularly?
Do we give generously? “
These are questions we can only answer individually. It`s a personal challenge, which must leave us at peace with ourselves and honest before God.
The Deanery Synod is our voice to the Diocesan Synod, which in turn represents us on the General Synod of the Church of England, where contentious debates have been known to hit the national headlines!
John our Vicar is the Area Dean, and this Deanery extends from Great Harwood to Chipping and Whitewell,, with all stations in between. Each Church has its quota of lay members, and Julie Bradshaw, David Dickinson, Sheila Goodman and Mick Grime represent St. Peter`s.
The Deanery Synod meets three times a year. It`s an opportunity to visit other Churches, and to experience a range of speakers on a variety of topics, as well as engaging democratically in the `business` of the Synod and of the Church of England.