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Canterbury districts wed to form new synod

Representatives from congregations throughout Canterbury gathered in Dunsandel on Feb 20th to mark the creation of the Central South Island District of the Methodist Church.

The new district has been formed through the union of the former North Canterbury and South Canterbury districts. The new district’s superintendent Rev David Bush describes the merger as a marriage rather than a take-over.

“Conference has urged districts to talk together to about possible mergers in order to reduce the number of districts and simplify the structure of the church. The two districts have talked about the issue for some time,” David says.

“We hope the new synod structure will create opportunities to advance the work of parishes. The entire district will meet twice a year, in February and August. The two former districts will keep meeting on a regional basis as often as they want, probably two or three times a year.”

Two assistant superintendents have been appointed to oversee pastoral care of leadership, organise meetings, and represent the Methodist Church in the former districts. They are Sue Spindler in the north and Betty Watson in the south.

Former South Canterbury district superintendent Rev Graham Hawkey says the southern district was small and found it difficult to provide the leaders it required to function effectively as a synod.

“We have gifted people of lively faith and independent thought. Nevertheless, we were deprived of a larger forum for debate. Becoming one synod provides a larger vision, a more informed understanding of the Methodist Church, and a deeper reflection on issues facing church and society.

“We knew too that the Connexion encourages a streamlining of districts. Within the South Island, North and South Canterbury including Oamaru share a geographical affinity. We saw this new synod as strengthening links with the creative Otago-Southland synod and the large diverse synod of Nelson-Marlborough-West Coast.”

Graham says the last meeting of the South Canterbury District took place in November at Woodlands Park, in theTimaru-Temuka parish. Along with some business, it featured musical items, competitions, and a good deal of fun and laughter tinged with nostalgia and sadness. Those who attended remembered in particular the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s when churches throughout the district were filled with worshippers.

Methodist Church president Ron Malpass and vice president Rev Kenneth Smith were among those who attended the ceremony to mark the formation of the new district.

During the ceremony two curved pieces of wood were joined to form an arch that symbolised the new district, and representatives from congregations placed a stone that had significant for their place beneath it.