Planning for next year’s General Synod – which will be meeting in Londonderry for the first time ever – would appear to have been in train for much longer than anyone imagined.
The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, addressed delegates at this year’s Synod in Armagh on Friday afternoon to entice them to come even further north next May. “I am a Limerick man by birth, a Corkman by upbringing, a Munsterman by grace, but I am adopted as an Ulsterman now and live in both Derry-Londonderry and Donegal,” the Bishop said, “and I love that part of the world.”
Using the large screens in the auditorium to share images of some of the north west’s best-known landmarks Bishop Good said he wanted to show Synod some of the work the Diocese was doing to prepare for Synod 2019. “We have built a Peace Bridge for the General Synod,” he joked, to widespread laughter. “It cost 14.6 million but it’s ready and you can use it. In the next picture you can see that we built walls. The walls of this fine city were built 400 years ago and it is the only city in these islands that has got these walls completely intact; they’re one mile long and it’s quite a feature of the city that you need to see.”
Synod members also saw slides of St Columb’s Cathedral – where the Synod Service will take place – which was the first cathedral built after the Reformation. “This is more serious,” the Bishop said, “it [the Cathedral] was refurbished at a cost of £4m in the last five years or so, and much work has been done.”
Bishop Good also showed delegates images of the Millennium Forum – which has “a very contemporary feel” – where the business of the Synod will be conducted, and of the Guildhall – “a fine building, but it’s very young in our city, 1890” – where £8m has been spent on refurbishments in the last decade. The Guildhall will host a civic reception for Synod delegates.
“We do believe it [Derry-Londonderry] will be a great venue for a great Synod,” Bishop Good said, “and I want to encourage you. Brexit will probably have just happened by then [laughter again], and the border is only a mile and a half from where I live, so….you know….”
“I want to assure you of a warm welcome in the city where I live,” Bishop Good said. “It is vibrant, it is energetic, it is culturally strong, and I think you will enjoy it. If you could stay a day or two earlier and a day or two later and enjoy the venue, you will be blessed.”