Churches are going through a period of profound change. For its part, the Catholic Church is responding with a process called “synodality”, a listening approach intended to bring the whole People of God closer to the mission of Jesus. T4CG believes the practice and purpose of synodality is relevant not only for Catholics but for Christians of all traditions, and so T4CG’s Founder and Director, Jenny Sinclair has developed a strand of work in this area.
A Synod for the World
This article by Jenny Sinclair was written specially for a Catholic audience, adapted from her essay A New Formation for a New Era. It was first published in The Tablet in January 2022.
The Catholic Church is embracing ‘synodality’, meaning ‘walking together’, a process whereby the whole people of God listen to each other and to the Holy Spirit to inspire and re-energise the Church. Jenny Sinclair argues that the purpose of synodality should be understood within the wider context, that its primary purpose is not to renew the Church for its own sake, but for the sake of the world. She warns that if it is regarded merely as an internal ecclesial exercise, or as a battleground between factions, its vast potential will be lost, and the Church will continue to decline at a time when it is most needed.
Just under two years ago, Pope Francis announced that the next Synod of Bishops – the gathering of bishops from around the world in Rome that normally takes place every two years – would focus on synodality itself. The themes would be communion, participation and mission, and for the first time in the history of the Church it would invite all 1.37 billion Catholics to take part in a two-year process of listening and discernment.
A legacy of the Second Vatican Council, the aim of this “journeying together” – the literal meaning of “synodality” – is to bring Catholics closer to the mission of Jesus. In this “way of being Church”, the whole People of God comes closer together on the journey of bringing alive the Kingdom of God on Earth. It has been described as the largest and most ambitious listening exercise in the history of humanity.
Some Catholics have responded more in fear than in hope: fear of change, or fear of no change. Others are trying to use the process to push a particular agenda; some see it as as a cynical exercise in ecclesial politics; some dismiss it as a colossal waste of time. Can Catholics overcome this confusion and rise to the opportunity? I suggest that by reading the political and cultural signs of the times we can understand the fundamental purpose of this Synod. It is nothing less than God’s way of preparing the Church to save the world.
To listen to a recording, click below
Session for Middlesbrough Diocese’s Synodal Day
In May 2022, Jenny led a sixty minute session for the clergy, laity and religious of the Diocese of Middlesbrough at St Mary’s Cathedral, exploring synodality and its purpose for the Church.
Download the text of the session as a pdf HERE
Listen to the audio HERE
Read more about Middlesbrough’s Journey HERE
Read a report on the Synod day in Middlesbrough Voice (page 7) HERE
Jenny Sinclair is Founder and Director of Together for the Common Good
I would like to thank everyone advising us on the synodality strand of T4CG’s work, in particular Edward Hadas and Phil McCarthy, without whose generosity of time and editorial expertise this strand of our work would not have been possible.
Like what you are reading? More inspirational content from Jenny Sinclair can be found here: https://togetherforthecommongood.co.uk/news-views/from-jenny-sinclair