January 2020 sees us entering a decisive year for our Synod Journey. We have always been very careful to emphasise that the Synod is not just a one-off meeting, it is a walking together on a road, listening, discerning and trying to discover the voice of God.
The weekend of 16, 17 and 18 October 2020 will bring together all the Synod Members to pray, to celebrate and to vote on proposals. These proposals will be based on the four themes to have emerged from all the listening undertaken in spring and summer 2019 – but they will also be informed by the prayer that took place in 2018 as we moved towards Adoremus.
What's more, after October 2020, the journey will not cease, because the Archbishop will present a Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese which will be influenced by everything that will have been said and heard and by all the votes carried out. This will not be ready until early 2021. This reminds us that as we follow the Way there isn’t an end point: it is the ‘joy of the journey’. So what about Synod 2021 and then 2022 onwards?
In the final document of the Amazon Synod in October 2019, the Synod Fathers wrote: ‘To walk together, the Church today needs a conversion to the synodal experience. It is necessary to strengthen a culture of dialogue, reciprocal listening, spiritual discernment, consensus and communion to find spaces and modes of joint decision and respond to pastoral challenges.’
The Synod Talks that have been held and still continue at Liverpool Hope University Chapel have helped us reflect on some of the issues upon which the Amazon Fathers reflected, and to which we as an Archiocese must respond.
Father Gerry O’Hanlon shared his understanding of the way that Pope Francis doesn’t just talk about Synods but has tried to live as leader of a Synodal Church. He began his talk with this thought: It all starts with some kind of encounter, in faith, with Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus and the Rich Young Man: ‘Jesus looked at him steadily and loved him.’ There was a real joy in this encounter. Father Gerry went on to explore how Pope Francis prefers to stress the dynamic noun ‘encounter’ rather than the more abstract notion of ‘relationship’. Pope Benedict spoke of the passion of God for us. Fr Gerry added that the ‘us’ is important since it has an ecclesial dimension – it is about ‘Church, about diocese’, and that is why Archbishop Malcolm called a Synod.
In the second talk, Dr Ros Stuart Buttle from Hope University ended her powerful offering with this reflection: ‘No matter what age we are, our faith and our theology are constantly challenged by life. When people speak of growing old, too often the emphasis is on the “old” rather than still growing or becoming. But we can only be the people and the Church now, in this moment, in this culture, in this time. This invites our faith and our Church not just to be understood differently but to be lived differently. May the Holy Spirit give each of us the grace to respond.’
The talks still to come will hopefully give us even more food for the journey.
Monday 13 January Dr Dominika Kurek-Chomvcz and Professor John Sullivan from Hope will reflect on faith in the family. Dominika is a mother of two boys and married to a Greek Catholic priest. What does it mean to talk about the domestic Church? How can faith be passed on in the family?
Monday 17 February Bishop Philip Egan from Portsmouth will talk about the place of the Catholic Church in society today.
Monday 9 March David McLoughlin will help shine a light on the Church as One and yet seemingly fragmented.
And finally, on Monday 20 April, Kate Wilkinson and Dr Peter McGrail will share their reflections on ministry.
Indeed, 2020 promises to be an exciting and memorable year for the Archdiocese – and it will not all stop next 31 December.
The texts of the Synod Talks and further details can be found on the Synod 2020 website www.Synod2020.co.uk under 'resources – Synod Talks'.