Rev Clare DowningRev Clare DowningHigh Cross Church in Camberley is a lovely multi-purpose building, with many rooms off the main downstairs space and the church is upstairs, accessible by lift or sweeping staircase - an ideal place for Wessex Synod to meet. We arrived for coffee and signing in and then assembled in the church for Synod.

I always enjoy the Moderator's worship sessions. Rev Clare Downing always seems to have something "down to earth" and helpful to share. This time she got us talking about the Kingdom of God with our
neighbours, told us it was too easy to feel hopeless about achieving it on earth and then gave us a salutary extract from "Chicken Run" where the hens are discussing the difficulties of escape! Hope against all the odds served them well. We were then introduced to new ministers and heard about ministerial changes, approved several Synod reports and heard more about the Radical Welcome campaign, where we were urged to explore it and take it seriously. We approved a motion to Misssion Council that all ministers, lay preachers and elders should have some sort of photo ID.

A DVD made at the Avenue Multicultural Centre was shown, which had a powerful effect on its audience. This DVD told the stories of some of the one hundred asylum seekers and refugees who come on to Avenue St. Andrew's premises each Friday and the reasons why the church went into partnership with CLEAR and the Red Cross to start this project.

Before and after lunch there was a series of Workshops on Fresh expressions, what the church is here for, church employment, children's spirituality, Radical Welcome and building spirituality through silence and
retreats. Synod is about decision making - but it's so much more! Over lunch you can chat to people from all over the area, sharing ideas, making new contacts renewing old friendships. There were some beautiful carvings from Zimbabwe on sale, or you could browse through High Cross's own bookshop.

After lunch there was a chance to attend another of the Workshops and then we settled down for more business. Amongst many items, we approved a plan to review the preaching of all Lay Preachers once every three years.

The most contentious discussion related to a donation to Westminster College, Cambridge. Its principal, Rev Susan Durber, talked to us about the college. She said that the church needs places where all God's people can come to learn and to pray and there are four such places throughout the country - Westminster, The Windermere Centre, Northern College and the Scottish College. Westminster was built
in 1889 and today's architects remark that it is "remarkably unmodified". It needs £7 million for repairs and to upgrade the accommodation (to en-suite rooms), the teaching areas and the catering facilities. We were shown a DVD and it is hoped work can start in June 2013. Kay Blackwell is currently studying there and Sandra Elkin and I have both benefited from the annual Lay Preachers' conferences, and can applaud its work, so I felt warmly supportive of Wessex Synod giving to this appeal. Several speakers indeed wanted Wessex to be more generous than proposed and this led to a long discussion, with the Finance Committee being sent back to reconsider its proposal.

We then applauded churches receiving Child-Friendly awards - one of which was Bitterne URC and heard about three recent contacts with Zambia. There has been a three-way link (England, Zambia and France) between some of the young people in the Synod and this was reported eloquently on the day as well as through a good written report. The second contact concerned Chandlers Ford's trip to Zambia in the summer, forging links with a church there and Tim Searle showed us an interesting DVD in which I could recognise many of the participants! Lastly the Moderator and her opposite number in the Methodist
Church had also made a visit to Zambia, exploring common ideas and experiences.

After closing worship, (when a full church singing is so uplifting) there was a cup of tea and refreshments and we all departed for home. The next Synod will be on Sat. 10th March 2012 at Woking URC - and if you'd like to come too, just let your representative know.

Pam Humphreys