Diocesan Assembly

“We are not called to be navel-gazers, but a communion of communities that looks beyond themselves… And so it is imperative that we become a synodal diocese, building upon the conversations we have held over the past few months.”

Bishop David Oakley, Diocesan Synod Report

On Saturday 15th July around 350 delegates from across the diocese gathered at Thornton College for our Assembly, Pilgrims of Hope.  This was part of the response to the synod listening process in 2022.  In the months running up to the Assembly, the delegates took part in preparation sessions run in Pastoral Areas around the diocese, and there were five Monday evening webinars on key topics.

Through the prep sessions, through the webinars, and through the day itself there was a great sense of people coming together, and of a shared sense of purpose and openness to the Holy Spirit.  At the beginning of the day we heard from Bishop David, the working parties and the youth stream.  We even had a note of prayer and appreciation from Pope Francis.  Then we moved into workshops, which were by turns reflective, passionate, and eye-opening.  Stories of hurt and healing were told, and dreams shared for the future.  Our final session gathered together some of the learning from the day, electrified by the youth stream. Bishop David shared with us three key words: koinonia – fellowship, working together against division; agape – laying down our lives in love for one another; and exousia He finished by telling us that

  • An action plan will be finalised over the summer to address the main concerns of the listening.
  • Every area of diocesan life will be encouraged and supported as we look to meet the changing needs of our Church and the world.
  • A new Diocesan Pastoral Council will take forward the agenda of the Assembly

Key Themes from the working  parties/Assembly workshops and next steps 

  • There was a great desire for communities that are welcoming, open and filled with joy (including Families, Reaching the Margins, Mission and Young People workshops). It would be great to have a shared sense of what a ‘flourishing’ parish looks like. 
  • The Liturgy workshop featured appreciation for ‘Christ-centred liturgy’, while the Prayer workshop offered rich suggestions for developing our relationship with God. 
  • We are at the beginnings of better financial transparency and accountability.  The Finance Working Party came up with some concrete suggestions to grapple with our ongoing running costs and property portfolio.  This will need further work and listening across the board. 
  • Our lay people are ready and willing to contribute their wisdom and experience. The Lay Engagement Working Party proposed a new kind of pastoral council, rooted in prayer and with a concern for mission. Bishop David is keen to encourage pastoral councils at all levels, including in parishes and a new Diocesan Pastoral Council. 
  • Priests shared some of their hopes and challenges, especially around the need for fraternal community, a better relationship with the diocese, and the need to build trust.  Suggestions to support priests included a mentoring scheme esp for new parish priests (as being done in Arundel and Brighton Diocese), and leadership training, esp for senior clergy and curial staff. 
  • Both the Women’s Ministry and the Outreach to the Margins working parties identified opportunities for engaging better with specific groups of our laity.  There was a call to recognise women’s vocations, and a need to think about how we reach beyond our church doors.  This is mirrored in the work undertaken by the Rome Synod.
  • The Prayer, Communication, Liturgy and Mission workshops all identified a love of being Catholic among delegates and a desire for ways to grow in confidence and faith.  

Watch the feedback session on the live stream recording here: https://youtu.be/xb0y7G3lTeM?si=9rrGKQpSe7q0ELMx&t=4742

Find the working party reflection papers and the webinar recordings here: https://northamptondiocese.org/diocese-focus-synod/

As delegates we were all encouraged to become ambassadors for the Assembly, and we finished the day with a beautiful period of prayer and worship. We thank everyone who worked so hard to make the day a success.

We are very grateful to Thornton College, all who helped to make the day happen, and our generous funder, and most importantly to the delegates who came with open minds and hearts and made it such a special day.

The livestream of the opening and closing sessions can be found here https://youtu.be/xb0y7G3lTeM, and the summary of the working parties is here https://youtu.be/ajn8lGIkpg8.

The work of the Assembly has been taken on by a new Vicariate for Pastoral Development (https://northamptondiocese.org/office-for-pastoral-development/).