Synod 2020 - a progress report

By Matt Jeziorski

A new year may have just dawned yet Year 2 of the Synod 2020 process is already well under way. It began in October 2018 and runs until September and its focus is on Listening and Discernment. It started with a series of open meetings which raised many issues and pastoral concerns that people hope Synod 2020 will act upon. Over the coming months the people of our diocese will be invited to reflect further on the joys, sorrows, hopes and struggles of Christian life today.

Making all voices heard

One notable concern raised in the open meetings was to ensure that we listen to those who might be hard to reach. A great strength of the Synod is that membership is organised locally and listening is taking place in our communities. Our focus groups have a specific remit to hear all voices and our online survey will help extend the listening as far as possible, and we’re making a particular effort to promote the involvement of young people. We are working with Animate Youth Ministries and our school chaplains in high schools, while a team of primary specialists are producing resources for younger children. Two of the ten planned focus groups will be specifically for young people and every pastoral area has been asked to ensure that at least two of the Synod members from their local communities are aged 15–25. Moreover, as a direct consequence of the open meetings, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon has invited Kate Wilkinson, a school chaplain and national president of the Young Christian Workers, on to the working party.

Concerns and outcomes

Many issues emerged from the open meetings that people would like to see addressed by the Synod. Yet it can address only those things that are within the Archbishop’s power to make decisions upon. This means there are certain matters concerning the law of the Universal Church that may emerge as key themes during our listening and discerning but which are beyond the scope of a Diocesan Synod to address. Archbishop Malcolm has resolved to take any matters beyond the Synod’s remit to Rome and make representation there to make sure the views from our Archdiocese are heard there. It is worth adding that the outcomes are not pre-written; we are embarking on this journey with the openness to the Holy Spirit working in all of us and it is through listening to the Holy Spirit and listening to each other that we will be able to discern where God is calling us.

Steps taken so far

The deadline for registering Synod members in our parishes and pastoral areas was 14 December. A number of parishes held open meetings to discuss the Synod and consider who could represent them as a member. On the Isle of Man, for instance, a Synod Holy Hour was organised to pray for wisdom in the discernment of Synod members. Those who have put themselves forward must be willing and able to commit to the Synod process for a period of two years.

What happens next

Synod membership will be confirmed by mid-January with the Synod Opening Ceremony scheduled for the Metropolitan Cathedral on 3 February. Members will attend an initial gathering in early February before taking part in listening and discernment preparation during Lent 2019. Local listening takes place in our communities between May and July when everyone will get the chance to share their reflections on our Synod questions.

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