In his address Archbishop Stephen said: "We have also been the Synod who have lived through the first waves of the Covid pandemic. We have learned how to zoom. This has been hugely testing and I want to acknowledge the disappointment and frustration of some members who are challenging us to go further to make sure that no one is disadvantaged by the way we use or don’t use technology.
"But there have also been many wonderful stories of Christian resourcefulness, creativity and tenacity as in our parishes, chaplaincies, church schools and just about every other expression of church life we have found ways of sustaining the life of worship, built new on line communities of faith, and served our local communities.
"As we emerge into the next phase of our learning how to live with Covid, we don’t know how many people will return to worship; we don’t know quite what will happen with the new communities we have nurtured online; we don’t know the full extent of the financial challenge. I know how difficult this has been in parishes and dioceses where at every level of church life we have had to make difficult decisions. But I want to encourage you. I think what the Church of England has done in the past 18 months, especially in the local church, is magnificent.
"Just this week the Bishop of London spoke powerfully about how inspired she was by the way churches have risen to the challenge, finding new ways of gathering to worship God, reach out and serve their neighbours in these difficult times. I too want to thank clergy and lay leaders for their faithfulness and perseverance. I am deeply sorry if anything that has been said from the centre ever caused anyone to doubt this.
"Apparently, in some quarters it has been suggested that clergy are a limiting factor on church growth. I agree. A shortage of clergy would really limit us. We need more vocations. That is my prayer: priests to serve a priestly people. It is the vision set for us in the Ordinal. It is also at the heart of the vision and strategy we will discuss on Monday; that, centred on Christ, the parish system of the Church of England will be revitalised in such a way that we will all discover the part we have to play in God’s mission and find new ways of serving our nation with the gospel.
"I also want to emphasise again this Synod’s deep gratitude to the NHS and other frontline workers, particularly those working in social care and schools.
"I believe in the Church of England. As we emerge from Covid, I believe we will find a simpler, humble and bolder way of being the church. I know it won’t be easy. Harder decisions lay ahead. But I am spurred on by the call of the gospel and hugely encouraged by some of the research that is now emerging showing the impact of the ministry of the Church of England during this pandemic. Do look at that the recently published research from the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at the University of York, entitled Churches, COVID-19 and Communities. It affirms the key importance of church buildings and the Christian ministry which flows from them as sources not just for solace and sanctuary, not just worship, but a whole host of other community uses."