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Lower North Island districts merge to form single synod

By Paul Titus

In December representatives from the three Methodist synods in the southern half of the North Island got together to officially put themselves out of existence. They gathered at Wesley Broadway Church in Palmerston North to commission a new ‘mega synod’ that will incorporate them and to induct its officers.

The Lower North Island Synod encompasses the former Hawkes Bay-Manawatua, Taranaki-Wanganui, and Wellington synods.

Rev Tony Bell is the superintendent of the new synod. He says the move to single synod should unburden the parishes of administrative chores so they can better focus on mission.

"Our intention was to establish a full time separated superintendent who could take over a lot of the business details that drive parishes doolally. The superintendent’s role is also to resource the parishes so they can get on with the task of being Church in their communities.

"In fact, initially I will serve as at superintendent at 75 pecent time otherwise my parish at Wanganui would be left in the lurch," Tony says.

In addition to a district superintendent and an eight person executive, the Lower North Island Synod will have three regional superintendents who will work to motivate and encourage local parishes. They are Rev Alan Upson in Taranaki, Rev Desmond Cooper in Wellington, and Jocelyn Boyes in Napier-Hastings.

"The intention is certainly not to stifle discussion by centralising decision making," Tony says. "Important issues will be handed down to the regional synod meetings for discussion.

"The synod executive has its first meeting in February and then the full synod meets on March 14th. We won’t meet again as a full synod until August but between March and August, I expect there to be regional synods."

Tony says he is expected to be a mobile superintendent and he wants to visit the different parts of the synod as early in the new year as possible. Plans are in place for visits to Gisborne and Hastings.

"We will need to find the resources to make the larger synod work. We have some ministry development funds but the need to find funding will be on-going.

"We have purchased a car for the superintendent through the Catholic Church’s Diocesan Car Fund Trust in Wellington, which enabled us to get it at about half its retail value. So we are already being creative with out resources."

In addition to the Methodist presidential team a number of regional leaders from partner churches as well as Uniting Congregations executive officer Rev Peter MacKenzie were on hand for the new synod’s induction service.

The service used an element from the service that marked the creation of the Methodist Central South Island Parish in 2005. Those attending the service each brought a stone, which were placed together to form a cairn, symbolising unity.

Tony says a particularly moving occasion for him during the service was when Anglican Church’s bishop of Rev Philip Richardson took his cross from around his neck and placed it on Tony. Tony and Philip have worked closely forging ecumenical ties in Taranaki and the gesture was a tangible symbol of their close relationship.