As you know, the word 'Synod' comes from two Greek words meaning on the path, road or way together. This is certainly how it feels with the Synod team at the moment. There is a lot to do and we seem to have a lot of Zoom meetings.
Let me tell you where we are up to (as of mid-January 2021):
• We have a new Synod coordinator, Kenny Lawler. Kenny has been seconded from his work as pastoral associate in St Oscar Romero parish. He is working for the Synod three days a week until the end of June. He has already shown how much of a valued part of the team he will be. Kenny will be getting in touch with the Synod members soon about a March online meeting.
• We have also been very fortunate in getting the expertise of Chris Knowles to work with us. Chris (originally from Warrington) has set up Synod Fruits and Forming Missionary Disciples. So he brings a huge wealth of experience and insight.
• We have just received the data from the members' indications of which proposals and affirmations they were most drawn to. This has produced a huge amount of data which we are looking at now.
• From 25–27 January, the Synod working party met for three days (on Zoom!) to look at what the Synod members were drawn to from the long list of proposals and affirmations. We hope to be able, from this time of discernment, to present in March the final Synod proposals to be sent back to parishes and communities and then voted on at the Synod in June. This is a huge task – and it needs to be soaked in prayer.
• In February, with the help of author and scholar Bill Heubsch, we are going to write a short booklet which will include all the Synod proposals and some background catechesis. This will include scripture and tradition. We will shine the light of the Word of God and recent papal teaching on our Synod path. This will be made available to anyone who wants it.
• Father Peter McGrail is preparing a presentation on the things that have been put forward that are outside the remit of the Synod. Since the very first Synod meetings, we have said we can only deal with things that a diocesan bishop can decide – but we didn’t exclude anything from our listening and discernment. To ensure nothing has been lost, we have kept a record of anything that we felt could not be part of our Synod but that was important to people, and this will be presented to the Synod members in March and then made available to everyone. This information will form part of our final Synod documentation.
• The initial meeting of the pastoral plan group (PPG) will now also have to take place on Zoom. This is a two-day meeting of people from both the diocese and around the country who, in the light of what the Synod says, will help the Archbishop draw up a Pastoral Plan for the diocese. This group will help us tap into some great expertise and experience, as well as being rooted in the reality of our own diocese. The PPG will be meeting both before and after the Synod to do its work. As you know, it is intended that this plan will be presented to the diocese on the 1st Sunday of Advent 2021.
• Finally: You may have seen the book put together by Austin Ivereigh of conversations (and emails) with Pope Francis called ‘Let us Dream’. In it, Pope Francis (from page 79 to page 94) shares something of his understanding of synodality, synods and how they should work. The whole book is worth a read – it is full of hope and challenge for a post-Covid Church and world, but the part on synods is especially helpful for everyone involved in Synod 2020.