This week the School for Synodality launches, a project that exists to help support the synodal conversion of the Church in England and Wales in our day to day practice. Through conversations, the development of resources, our webinars and our parish and innovation programmes we hope to enable an openness to the Holy Spirit in our Church through listening, sharing and discernment.
During the pandemic, Pope Francis presented us with a new image of church: that, no matter who we were, we were together in the same boat. The worldwide synod process taking place at the moment came out of that desire to engage with our changing world and with those on the margins to regain a renewed sense of purpose and mission. However, putting this into practice is not so simple.
The School for Synodality, founded by Avril Baigent and Chris Knowles as a partnership between the Diocese of Northampton and Synod Fruits, is an project which aims to help the Church regain this sense of purpose and mission, and build on the ways that parishes and diocese have engaged in experiences of encounter through Synod process so far.
This week the School for Synodality launch our first and foundational resources to support the Church embedding new synodal habits and practices, especially how we approach decisions, spiritual conversations, and prayerful discernment in meetings.
The project is also launching our two 15 month programmes, one for parishes wanting to take the next steps in responding to their synodal listening, the other for those leaders creating new pastoral ventures that will support our Churches synodal conversion.
In addition to this, details are online about their webinar series which will take place through October and November that looks at developing synodal practice at the local level. It will include speakers such as Professor Anna Rowlands, Dr Jessie Rogers, Maurizio Lopez, Fr Matthew Nunes and Fr Philip Inch, with another webinar that’s organised in partnership with CAFOD.
Over the coming 18 months the school will focus on 5 areas of work:
- Practical and high-quality resources to embed synodality in the everyday life of the Church
- Two programme of support and formation for innovators in the Church and those parishes wanting to develop synodally
- The development and strengthening of networks of practitioners across England and Wales engaged in work on synodality
- A communication programme to help share our resources and the vision of Synodality as far and wide as possible
- Engaging with our academic group made up of those from different disciplines to ensure our work is grounded in church teaching, and also deepening the relationship between practitioners and academics
Sr Nathalie, Undersecretary of the Synod Office, recommended the project, saying that “growing as a synodal Church means constantly learning and being formed as we walk together, and the School for Synodality is an exciting opportunity to do precisely that on the path ahead to serve the synodal conversion of the Church in England and Wales.”
Avril Baigent believes that the project can do this by “(1) actively responding to our changing world – reading the signs of the times; (2) learning how to hold prayerful, truthful and safe conversations which value gracious listening and courageous speaking; (3) consciously seeking the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and (4) being compelled to action by the stories we’ve heard. Although this may sounds a little complicated, it is a part of our community life that we are recovering now, but which has been part of the Church since the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). We have in our tradition tools like lectio divina and spiritual conversation which can be transformative”.
Chris Knowles added that “synodality has been used to resolve contentious issues in parishes; to look for creative solutions to diocesan finances; and even to create safe listening spaces in response to clergy sex abuse. The result of becoming synodal, of truly encountering one another, heart-to-heart, is a new sense of purpose. This purpose brings people together, helps prioritise finances and resources, allows people’s gifts to flourish and enables us to take risks for the Kingdom”.
You can find out more about the project at SchoolforSynodality.org.uk