The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, reminded his Diocese that the care of the poor is a priority for the Church as he addressed his Diocesan Synod in Corfe Mullen.

The Bishop told gathered bishops, clergy and laity: “The care of the poor is a priority for the Church and in an economic downturn we have a special responsibility... The provision of food banks is a positive charitable response but raises questions about how we have come to depend on them and questions the nature of justice and equity in our society.”

Bishop Holtam also urged his parishes to continue in dialogue as they look confidently to the future and to let him know what their priorities are in mission: “We have an opportunity for us to talk, engage, think and articulate our priorities as a local church. It is important the conversations take place locally. Your responses will help me to find better measures of the quality and impact of church life.”

The Bishop also supported those parishes who are able to keep their buildings open during the day for people to find sacred space in the community: “So often our buildings can seem a burden but they can also be the best signs and assets we have when they are open and serve the wider community and sing for God and us.”

Bishop Holtam also reported back on recent discussions relating to progress which will allow women to be ordained as bishops: “We need to be careful with one another, perhaps especially when there are still strong disagreements, but we also need to be clear that the basic decision to have women bishops has been made and the discussion is now only about how best to do this.”

There was a report from the Social Responsibility Group and Synod members also heard a progress report on the Children and Young People’s Strategy from Diocesan Advisers Barbara Meardon and Lizzie Whitbread. The strategy trains parishes in creative, more effective children’s and youth work.