I’ve been asked to say a few words about Simon’s time as Moderator of the Wales Synod, as an erstwhile colleague in the Synod Support Team across the years. I’m sure that my former colleagues would agree with me when I say that we are in a privileged position as we work to support our churches in their mission because we get to know so many people, and their churches, across the Synod and beyond.
So, to give some insight about who he is, how he works and the difference he has made, I actually need to go back a little further than when Simon was inducted as Moderator in 2012, to 2007 when he, with the support of his pastorate, volunteered to take on the role of Acting Synod Clerk, following the disappearance of Revd David Fox. This, I later came to understand, was typical of Simon; a prayerful, generous, gesture, full of commitment; Simon doesn’t rush into situations but he does give his all to them.
I remember that he was coming into a situation where people were experiencing trauma thus his listening and counselling skills helped us deal with an unusual and deeply emotional situation.
His time as Synod Clerk proved to have many advantages; he learnt a fair bit about the way the Synod (in all its facets) operated, along with the other councils of the Church. Of course, he knew a lot about the wider URC, as ministers are called to serve the wider church whatever their role and Simon has always been active at District/Area Councils, Ministers groups, central URC posts as well as in his pastorates.
Those experiences contributed to the ease in which he settled into the role of the Synod Moderator in Wales. When Moderator, he still managed to continue to volunteer for other roles where his gifts and skills were put to use such as
- Free Church Council for Wales (on TV for both Queen’s funeral and King’s coronation)
- Facilitator for the Northern Synods as they transitioned to a closer working relationship,
- Joint Secretary of the Moderators’ Meeting,
- mentoring new Moderators,
- Serving on the Retired Ministers Housing Committee etc.
If you asked Simon, in the phraseology of Monty Python, “what has a Moderator ever done for us”, his view is that a Moderator is a minister to the ministers and a friend to the churches. He would try to hold regular conversations or meetings with ministers in pastoral charge and ensure that retired ministers were supported by their home churches. He would meet with the Churches when celebrating a special anniversary, or when a minister moved on, to help the transition through vacancy, by understanding and responding to their communities. With the support of colleagues, he would signpost churches towards grants and technical aid when they were embarking on a new project or changes to buildings.
Although he would say he hasn’t been personally responsible for all of these things, he had a major input and a lot has changed during Simon’s Moderatorship; such as
- AI – Appreciative Inquiry; now the default position on how we look at the positives in any situation and how they might be built up; how that builds us up and gives a stronger, more viable resource.
- The Whole People of God; how that each and every person might consider their role as their response to God’s love.
- Eco Church, caring for God’s creation in our churches, communities and world
- There is a greater engagement with the culture and language of Wales
- Funeral Celebrancy has been developed with Good Grief courses and mentoring; viewing this particular ministry as an opportunity to bring God’s love and healing into a place of hurt and vulnerability
- Lay Preaching – recognising and developing the abilities and contributions that so many of our churches rely upon for their weekly Sunday worship.
- Covid brought about a rapid and greater use of technology with Synod grants made available to the churches, along with the expertise of the Synod Support Team.
- URC has introduced regular ministerial pastoral supervision,
- Safeguarding is now embedded in all councils of the church
Simon has no desire to be centre stage although, of course, sometimes he needs to be there – for his knowledge or his wisdom or because there are situations where he represents the Wales Synod or the United Reformed Church – but he is self-effacing and rightly wants to enable those around him.
I know that his vision and drive has been integral in developing the current ways of working across the Synod; to have a Team mentality stems from a personal passion to recognise the gifts and skills of an individual, then to celebrate and build upon them; the supportive culture that has created is, in no small measure, a result of Simon’s enthusiasm and commitment. That supportive culture has produced dividends which continue to ripple out. I know how highly he has valued the Synod Support Team and they, him.
We had a poster in the meeting room for that started “Oh, give me your pity; I’m on a committee, we meet from morning ‘til night..” Moderators do attend a lot of meetings and have a lot of knowledge and insight to bring to them.
- General Secretary/General Assembly
- Moderators Meeting
- Area Meetings
- Synod Meetings
- Church Meetings
- Support Meetings
- FPB/SCM/SST/ acronyms!
Qualities he brings
- A man of integrity,
- Love of transparency
- Great listener
The role of Church Leader is more than meetings though, it is about listening and discernment and it isn’t all easy. People are human and relationships break down, even within the church. Simon calls the church a family so when one of us is hurt, we all share that. Being conscientious has a price and that might result in missed family birthdays or working through bereavement or being exhausted but still working in the wee small hours to think, and pray, and prepare. Simon also journeys with us when we are sick, or those we love are, caring about what is going on in our lives and just asking how things are – and waiting and wanting to have your response; to share the burdens you carry and the joys you are celebrating.
That level of caring will stand Simon in good stead as he responds to God’s call to Swansea; that showing and sharing God’s love is the foundation of who we are and who Simon is, too.
Diolch yn fawr, Simon, Pob bendith – Huge thanks, Simon, every blessing