The gravity of the financial situation facing the Bathurst Diocese of the Anglican Church hit home this weekend for members of the 47th Synod.
Bishop of Bathurst Ian Palmer implored representatives of parishes from Bourke to Bathurst to accept the need for fresh approaches to ministry across the Central West.
He said the Diocese needs to look at where its resources are spent and ask itself if there are resources that are no longer needed.
Bishop Palmer said the mood of the Synod was one of grappling with, or coming to terms with, the enormity of the financial problems currently facing the Diocese.
The Bathurst Diocese is currently involved in legal action over failure to repay a $24 million debt.
Bishop Palmer said, until now, there has been mostly a sense of disbelief surrounding the gravity of the situation. However, he said that until acceptance is reached it is hard to move forward.
“This is a very difficult time for the Diocese,” Bishop Palmer said.
“At synod we had to talk about the inevitability we face, even though most people already knew.”
Bishop Palmer said the role of bishop is one of a shepherd who leads, cares for, gives vision to, protects and loves his flock.
“All a shepherd can do is guide his flock through the valley of darkness,” Bishop Palmer said.
“He cannot prevent the valley from being there in the first place. I can’t take our financial troubles away, but I can help people to deal with it.”
He asked all the parishes to ask themselves how they might serve the communities of which they are a part.
“That is the call from me to the parishes,” Bishop Palmer said.
“We are currently in transition, and it is difficult to know the way ahead, but I want them to think carefully and creatively about how they are serving.
“The church is not just about worshipping in our buildings, but living in our communities.
“The early church made a policy of helping people in need. We need to look at how we do that, not just as individuals, but all of us together as a church.”
Bishop Palmer said across the Diocese some parishes run food banks, toy libraries, meeting places and loans schemes. He said the challenge for the Diocese is how to continue to move forward when its resources were so thinly stretched.
Bishop Palmer said one of the highlights of the synod was the attendance of the Archbishop of Sydney, The Most Reverend Glenn Davies.
Archbishop Davies gave the sermon at the opening of the third session of the 47th Synod of the Diocese of Bathurst on Friday night.
During that sermon he repeatedly urged the parishes of the Diocese to “stand and withstand”.
“We need reliable people with brains and backbone,” Archbishop Davies said.
“If you have brains but no backbone you will just waffle on, and we don’t want people who have backbone but no brains because they will stand firm, but won’t know what they are standing firm on.”