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Church of Ireland General Synod: Youth ministry ‘in crisis’

13 May 2022

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THE Church of Ireland General Synod met in person last week for the first time since the pandemic, in a three-day session in the Belfast Assembly Hall.

There were just two Bills to steer through all the requisite final stages. One allows the General Synod to hold its meetings electronically if necessary, with all the consequent amendments to the constitution. The other ensures that parochial nominators — those chosen every three years to nominate new rectors for a vacancy — must come from the parish for which they are nominating.

The Synod then worked its way through the 350-page Book of Reports, each open to comment from the floor. First was the report of the Church of Ireland Youth Department (CIYD) department, proposed by Simon Henry (Down & Dromore) and seconded by the Bishop of Meath & Kildare, the Most Revd Pat Storey.

It had been “a turbulent few years,” Mr Henry said. “Is crisis too strong a word? I’ve been pondering this for a while as I speak with many of the youth-ministry key agencies and workers across the island.

“I firmly believe the Church finds itself at a crossroads. . . There is a large-scale volunteer crisis across the entire youth sector, in the UK and Ireland — secular, uniformed, Church, all of it. The Church and its leaders must respond to this, as well as us as individual followers of Jesus, as members of our local parish — and wider, as members of the Church of Ireland.”

The figures he gave spoke for themselves. Statistics from recent research by Christ in Youth showed one youth worker for every 2821 young people in Ulster. In Leinster, it was one for every 22,662; in Connaught, one for every 15,577; in Munster, one for every 21,120. He called for more investment in the light of the launch of the new strategic plan to 2025.

He concluded, “Young people and children are often not taken seriously, either in society generally or in church. In the community, young people are often perceived as a problem to be dealt with, or resented, and in church they may only be valued as “the Church of the future” rather than “the Church of the present”.

Bishop Storey said: “Like many others here, I have witnessed, during the post-pandemic surge of confirmation services, hundreds of young people declare that they are owning Christian faith for themselves, and this, managed well, is a remarkable sign of hope. But we cannot rest on our laurels, and we cannot do it alone.”

Read other reports from the Church of Ireland General Synod

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