'Becoming the Church that God is calling us to be'

By Father Philip Inch and Father Matthew Nunes, Synod Moderators

‘The next months are an exciting opportunity for us all to listen again to the voice of the Spirit of God guiding and directing us’

How do you capture 25,000 responses to an invitation to listen to the voice of God? How do you make sense of over 3,500 proposals that were sent in after reflections on four themes, plus a Covid-19 reflection?

This has been the task of the Synod in the past months. On the web site www.synod2020.co.uk (and hopefully through your parish Synod members) you have been able to read the 120 summary proposals and the 45 affirmations that have been drawn up so that we can lose nothing of what was said – so that we can capture that ‘still small voice of calm’ that just might be the whispering of God to us.

The task of the Synod now is to look at the summary proposals and the affirmations grouped under the four Synod Themes and to ask this question: ‘What am I most drawn to?’ We have phrased this question very deliberately because this is the language of discernment – it is the language of the heart, it is the language of love.

The Synod members have the task of listening to what you have to say, what you are drawn to and then at the beginning of December to submit this discernment to the Synod office. In January we will bring together all that has been entrusted to us and in March our final Synod proposals will be announced. (But that is jumping ahead.)

We wanted to share with you in the Catholic Pic this month just a flavour of what has been said.

Theme 1: All called and gifted by God

There are 34 proposals and 13 affirmations under this theme. Among the areas they cover are: councils and synodality, governance, inclusivity, lay ministry, formation, the role of women, young people, the training of priests, safeguarding, collaboration, schools and buildings.

Theme 2: Sharing the mission of Jesus

There are 28 proposals and 12 affirmations under this theme. The areas covered include: evangelisation, mission, Catholic social teaching, care of creation, love of neighbour, how we use our resources and our buildings, communication, children and young people, schools and groups and sodalities.

Theme 3: How we pray together

There are 32 proposals and 11 affirmations connected with this theme. These include the following topics: opportunities for prayer, the language of the liturgy, liturgical formation, spiritual formation, lay ministry, the role of the celebrant, collaboration, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the sick and the housebound, schools and young people and communication.

Theme 4: Building community, nurturing belonging

There are 26 proposals and nine affirmations as part of this theme. Covered by this theme are: how we can be welcoming and inclusive, what it means to be a parish, our schools, children and young people, outreach, community-building, ecumenism, pastoral area organisation and communication.

These four themes also include the reflections and proposals that were made during the time of lockdown. You may also notice just from this very brief description that there are some topics repeated more than once. Yes, that is true. Some things have been suggested under more than one theme.

In his message for Synod Sunday, Archbishop Malcolm highlighted the task for the whole Archdiocese in the months leading up to the beginning of December when he said: ‘Our Synod journey brings together the “imperatives” of co-responsibility, collaboration and genuine listening between Church leaders and the lay faithful. Synodality is an essential aspect of Church life today. Pope Francis is firm on synodality as the way forward. I am reminded of something that Pope Benedict said of lay people in 2012: “They should not be regarded as ‘collaborators’ of the clergy, but, rather, as people who are really ‘co-responsible’ for the Church’s being and acting. It is therefore important that a mature and committed laity be consolidated, which can make its own specific contribution to the ecclesial mission with respect for the ministries and tasks that each one has in the life of the Church.”

‘This is very much your role in the next part of our Synod journey. Over 3,500 proposals were submitted – thank you. The Synod Working Party (and others) have worked with all these proposals and have faithfully kept all the proposals and ideas that you have highlighted.

‘I need each of you to play your part in discerning the next steps forward. At the beginning of December each Synod member will have to indicate which of the ideas and issues that they are most drawn to. They will need your input to do this faithfully. This will then enable us to present to you, in March, the Synod Proposals to be voted on in June. After June we will work on drawing up a Pastoral Plan in the light of the Synod Proposals which we will promulgate at the start of Advent 2021.

‘The next months are an exciting opportunity for us all to listen again to the voice of the Spirit of God guiding and directing us. Please play your part – we will not be able to complete this task faithfully without you.’

Matters outside the remit of Synod 2020

Since the beginning of our Synod 2020 journey there has been a clear understanding that some of the issues raised could be about things that a diocesan bishop does not have the authority to decide on. Through the open meetings, throughout the listening stage, and in the proposals submitted, a number of such issues have come to light. As such, they do not find a place in the summary document. A Diocesan Synod is not the place where these can be considered.

However, careful note has been made of these issues (none have been lost) and at the Synod gathering in March, when the final Synod Proposals are announced there will also be a report that will detail all these issues that lie outside the remit of the Synod with time to reflect on them and respond to them. (These ideas and reflections will not be rushed through; a substantial time will be given to them.)

At the end of our Synod journey a report will be sent to the Bishops’ Conference and to Rome. This report will also include these issues:

Synod members

The task of the Synod members is a very important one at this time. They will look at the summary proposals and affirmations, they will consider the responses that they have received from parishioners and other groups and then, using the tools of discernment that they have been given, they will be asked to indicate, under each theme, which five proposals and which two affirmations they are most drawn to. But it is not just them – they are speaking for, they are discerning for, their community, for their parish. So please pray for our Synod members.

Synod website and social media

This article cannot reproduce all the summary proposals or the affirmations – it would take the whole of the Pic to do that! Please look at the Synod website. If you do not have access to the internet, ask your Synod member to let you have a set of the proposals – remember all our priests are Synod members too.

• You will find information (and short films) about this stage of our Synod journey on the Synod website (synod2020.co.uk) and social media: @Synod2020 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.