21st Century Christianity

Christianity Deanery Synod


Welcome to the Deanery with the strangest name in Devon! We are Christianity Deanery and the name is strange because we are a part of the Christian church. So why call one particular part of it "Christianity"? Are the others not part of the Christian church? Why don't you call the deanery for the parishes of Exeter, the "Deanery of Exeter"?

Deaneries are one of the building blocks of the Church of England. The whole country is divided into parishes, so that(with a few minor exceptions) wherever you live in England, you live in a parish, which is usually named after the parish church. Parishes are grouped together to form the geographical unit called a "deanery". Usually, the deanery has a name which describes where it is, possibly being called by the name of one of the towns or villages. Then deaneries are grouped to form an archdeaconry(led by an archdeacon)and the next steps are a diocese(led by a bishop)and province(led by an archbishop).

Dioceses (generally) take their name from the city where they have their cathedral. Naturally, that city has parish churches as well, and so those are in one or more deaneries. In a few cases, all the city parishes form one deanery. And when that happens, in a few dioceses in England, the deanery has taken the name "Christianity". Otherwise, we would be the "Deanery of Exeter in the Archdeaconry of Exeter in the Diocese of Exeter".

If you were starting to think "That's crazy", don't worry. The clergyperson who has oversight of any deanery, whether in the city or the country, is called the "Rural dean". There are a few patches of rural Devon in the deanery, but none of the parishes is a "rural" parish. Here we are trying to remember to call that principal clergyperson the "Area dean", but not everyone in the city and diocese remebers that title!

So what do we do?

Our deanery has its own "Synod", which is a place where matters of common concern to the parishes can be discussed. All the clergy are members of the synod, and each parish elects representatives from its lay (non-clergy) members. The bigger the church, the more representatives. So our synod has about 40 clergy and nearly 50 lay members. The cathedral is not a parish, but elects some lay representatives, and Exeter Network Church is represented on the synod.

So we generally meet three times in each year, and the meetings visit different churches or church buildings. When we meet, there is usually a speaker from outside the membership of the synod, who will give a presentation about some topic of general interest to the church in Exeter. Often the speaker will be somebody from the diocesan team, who will talk about their work, and how it affects the deanery and parishes. Being a channel of information is an important part of the role of the synod. Besides this, the deanery is often asked to discuss reports affecting the diocese or the whole Church of England.

The role is two-way; ideas from parishes can be discussed at the synod, and then taken for discussion by the diocese; recently, one church in our deanery was concerned about how to pay its contributions to the diocese while they waited for a new vicar. Could their contributions be reduced? We talked about this, and it was then raised for discussion by the diocese.

Like many deanery synods, ours is concerned about the declining number of worshippers and the drop in the numbers of clergy to serve in our parishes. So we are making plans for the way that the churches in Exeter can meet these problems, and in particular, our city-wide (or deanery-wide) mission to those who are non-Christian.

Each deanery synod appoints a standing committee, with a secretary, treasurer and a chapter clerk(who acts as the secretary for the clergy meetings of the deanery). The leading lay member of the synod is the "Lay Chairman", who shares the leadership of the meetings with the rural dean. Together the two represent the deanery at other meetings.

Some special things.

This deanery is small enough to walk across easily. We do it annually, not by walking from side to side in a straight line, but in a fund-raising prayer walk. Throughout England, the second Saturday in September has become the day when many people are sponsored to walk or ride to churches, raising funds for maintaining the historic churches of the land. Here in Christianity Deanery, we have made this into an opportunity to tour nearly all the places of worship in one continuous walk. It is a leisurely 30 kilometre walk, which pauses for prayer at each building, and starts and finishes with an act of worship. Being fit enough to complete the walk is not a requirement for election as either rural dean or lay chairman, but in recent years, both have been successful!

We also have our own deanery prayer, written by one of our former rural deans, which prays for each parish and which has petitions based on the lives of the saints, or the characteristics of the name of the church. It is on a separate page.

One of the lay chairman's collection of thought-provoking quotations.

"If the impossible is not part of our plans, then God is not one of our partners"

Last updated 8.6.2010