I generally try to knock out a Synod preview the day before it starts. But this time I’m a whole week ahead. Two reasons:
- For around half the members, it’s their first York residential weekend synod. So I’m writing about what to expect and how it’s different to (and better than) Synod in London
- This will be a York weekend like no other, because so much of it is dedicated to the Facilitated Conversations about Scripture Mission and Human Sexuality.
So, read on for the bathwellschap survival guide to York Synod!
New members, who have now endured two London sessions, will be amazed at how different things are in York. The fact that we are fully residential has two major effects:
a) we go on till 10.00 p.m. Yes, ten at night. Or 22.00 hrs (if you don’t quite believe what you’re reading).
b) there’s a much more relaxed and social atmosphere as we eat, pray, wander about the campus and sit chatting in the cafés and bars together.
Keeping going till late sounds like hard work – and it can be. Fortunately, the long days are punctuated by decent meals (see Tip 7 below) and a lovely semi-parkland environment. Unlike London, where you can’t just ‘escape’ for ten minutes, on the University campus you can. (You can also get lost trying to find your way to your bedroom…)
But the overall atmosphere is much more conducive to ‘walking together’ – which is what Synod is meant to do. All this makes for a much easier atmosphere in which to have the Facilitated Conversations, which begin on Sunday and take us through till Tuesday.
I’ll post an agenda preview as we gather, but in the meantime, here are my Top Ten Tips for York
1. Have sensible shoes/sandals…
There’s a lot of walking to and fro, especially if you are housed in the further reaches of Alcuin, James or Vanbrugh Colleges.
You’ll soon work out the little short-cuts across the grass. But watch your feet: duck and goose poo is present, sometimes in industrial quantities.
2. Choose where you sit
The banked-up seats are great for observing the mood of Synod; not so good if you’re trying to catch the Chair’s eye to speak, or want to leave in a hurry.
Don’t attempt the steps if you are weak-kneed. Don’t sit near the front if Tip 3 applies to you.
3. Keep your sporting instincts disguised
The York Synod clashes wonderfully with the end of Wimbledon. Tablets and phones make it possible to keep up discreetly – but shouts of ‘Yes!’ or ‘Go Andy!’ will give you away.
4. Make the effort…
… to go to the 7.30 a.m. worship. In the dark days of the Women Bishops fiascos I certainly found that praying with and for the people I disagreed with made the rest of the day better.
5. Cheat a little…
… when you’re very weary.
You can follow the video stream on the university Wi-fi from your room, thus saving yourself some walking if the session isn’t one you are especially concerned about.
(However, this does not apply during the Conversations: you actually have to fetch up to your group.)
6. The campus bars and coffee-shops are great…
Hang out, talk to old friends, make new ones. It’s something we just can’t do in London. There’s a free tea and coffee (and biscuits on a good day) in the room under the main hall. And a variety of coffee bars and a couple of proper bars around the campus.
My own preference is the Vanbrugh College bar: real ale, sit out on the waterside terrace, lots of synod movers and shakers to chat to….
See you there at about 10.05 p.m.?
7. You won’t need a heap of money…
…(or an Oyster card). All your meals are paid for. And they are jolly good, with lots of choice, and healthy and unhealthy options in equal measure. So unless you’re generous with your rounds in the bar, you won’t need much cash. (There are cash machines and shops on site for newspapers, things you forgot to pack, etc.)
8. Don’t dress up
You’re not in the big city now. There’s a lot of casual summer clothing around: shorts are quite normal, as are slightly loud T-shirts. The exception is…
9. …the Synod Eucharist at York Minster…
… on Sunday morning. Coaches are laid on to get you there (keep an eye out at the information desk for announcements and booking a ticket). Many Synod members do dress quite smart for this. Hats have even been seen, but are (thankfully?) rare. The Minster choir’s finale (Psalm 150) is breathtaking, even for hardened old hacks like me.
10. Have some fun!
Saturday night always has a quiz organised by the Open Synod Group, with fundraising for a Really Good Cause. As the flyer (click here) says “a pleasant antidote to the heavy agendas and a chance to socialise over a glass of wine. Donations (after expenses) to be split between Médecins sans Frontières Syria & work with refugees in Europe”.
To be serious for a moment…
We should also remember the family, friends of Claudia Laurence, a chef at the University, who disappeared in 2009 and is believed to have been murdered. Despite extensive police enquiries and public appeals, no-one has yet been charged. (Read the police report here.)The same people who cheerily feed us and clear up after us at York are her work colleagues, living with this unsolved crime.
- Re-read your Synod Survival Guide (click here if you’ve lost it already). It’s got a few hints and tips about York buried in the text.
- Make sure you crack the code of the various meeting-room numbers – it’ll help you get to fringe meetings and groups on time.
- Say ‘thank you’ to the London Synod staff, who put in huge energy and work to transport everything up to York – and emerge smiling. Usually.
I’ll post some daily updates as usual. I’ll flag them on Twitter @bathwellschap or you can follow this blog – press the ‘follow’ button in the right hand column above.
But be warned that there’ll be no details of the Facilitated Conversations – we’re committed to not discussing them publicly.
* The weekend starts here. No, not a pop song this time, but the home of many songs – the subtitle to ITV’s Friday night pop show Ready Steady Go (1963-66) with Cathy McGowan and Keith Fordyce. (Oh, OK, there is a Fatboy Slim number called The weekend starts here, but it’s well off my radar.)