Surprises and things that are different in Wales
- Weather – more sunshine than wasforecast.
- Waterbus is better than Liverpool! A good means of transport, though not fully integrated into transport system
- Access to and support of Bishops three were able to visit our conference, supportive and committed
- The amount of work being done and diversity of projects in the Church in Wales
- Stronger sense of regional identity (but north / south divide, aggravated by transport problems)
- The National Assembly the sense that it belongs to the people, is friendly and well-connected to many groups, engaged with the community, good links with Assembly Members and the number of women in the Chamber.
The Church in Wales is not an established Church, but does punch above its weight. There was interest in the relationship between Church and State. The Assembly has no power over the Church, though funeral fees are set by the Assembly. (Marriage fees are set by the Church; the Church in Wales is exempt from providing same sex marriages, alongside the Church of England, but a direct route to the Lord Chancellor was included in the law for this to be changed separately.) Influence at the Assembly depends on personal relationships rather than official or structural representation, but Wales is a smaller country and interaction between Church and State feels positive and engaging.
Concerns and matters that are challenging or difficult
- Complexity of decision making structures in the Church makes it difficult for the SR voice to be heard. This is more difficult with restructuring and the number of different titles and roles.
- The hidden nature of rural poverty and access to services. Statistics can be distorted when there is reluctance to admit problems and claim benefits. Deprivation is more complex in rural areas and much of Wales is rural (similar in many ways to upland England). There are different indices of deprivation for Wales, but rural poverty is still hidden and different layers of statistics are needed to show the true picture.
- Little or no representation at the conference from N and W Wales or from many English dioceses.
- How can we use our network more effectively to support members better? We may need to develop a range of engagement with different dioceses and networks, especially in areas where there is little real engagement with SR issues. Can the network offer help to dioceses when they are re-thinking their SR work?
- Impact of the Scottish referendum and Barnett formula. Conversations are just beginning on this there was surprise at the speed with which England felt it was being treated unfairly, and a just solution is needed for the West Lothian question and English votes for English laws.