Hexham & Newcastle Diocese presents its feedback from Assembly 2 of its Synodal journey

Q1 – How do we feel the Synod process is going?

Feedback suggests that engagement with the Synod across the diocese has been patchy. This appears to be due to the level of engagement of local Clergy and where our parishes are with regards their partnership development. The approach can be ad hoc. In some areas, there has been less successful engagement with laity e.g. in “explaining” what Synod process actually is. However, it has started – and we are identifying where parishes need support.

It is working in the sense that the opportunity is being provided for people to be consulted. But it is very reliant on people coming forward to be part of the process.

It has been suggested that it would be helpful to provide an opportunity for the priests to come together to discuss e.g. in the January/February Vicariate meetings.

There are examples of where it is really moving well for example, there was the most successful day in November with the Religious of the diocese. It seems to be going well where there is strength in the local church/community already and existing groups have been used. It is felt that we don’t need to cover lots of questions, but we do need careful/intentional listening to hear the different themes come through. The positivity of the responses to having a synod are encouraging, people feel it has enabled them and encouraged them to have their voices heard. They feel there is a freedom to express things – they are glad of the forum. But they question would they be really heard?

We do need to dig deeper into questions and to widen scope of response.
It is going less well at reaching the margins where there may be less opportunity. We must outreach to all

This needs to be understood to be a continued journey beyond handing in the Synodal report. The diocese needs a strategy – who would respond to the Synod?

There is a need for formation on being a Synodal Church; including this being about intentional active listening (every conversation is a contribution to the Synod process).

Q2 – In what ways is it working?

The setting of the question into the Journey to Emmaus story is very helpful. We are journeying together and this setting of the new way of working takes time before getting down to it. E.g. In the Emmaus story this is recognised – the disciples on the road didn’t recognise the Lord in their first part of the journey- it takes time.

It is clear that different approaches are necessary for different groups

This is a critical opportunity that needs to be taken, and not missed.

Those who are engaging and taking part are energised and feeling Synodal.

Meetings of groups such as the Vicariate of the religious in the diocese, local mothers groups are going well and entering into prayerful dialogue.

People want to talk.
We have a thriving Church in Hexham & Newcastle diocese. It truly is, it needs to be celebrated and witnessed.

Q3 In what ways are we finding difficulties? There is the question if the real issues are being avoided.

We need to be welcoming in order that we can then evangelise. It is difficult to be synodal when people don’t see us as places they are welcome.

There is a risk felt at the moment that the diocese becomes the ‘big parish’.

There are some misunderstandings of the purpose and mechanism of the Synod

People do struggle to articulate their faith.

Some priests are not encouraging the synodal process in parishes so some laity are looking for their opportunities to be involved.

For some (both clergy and laity) they are finding it difficult to move away from local issues and to see the bigger picture of the universal Synod. Is this about learning what it means to be the Church in the 21st Century? Or addressing the practical issues the Church has to face? There is some confusion between “Issues” to be addressed and the “Reflection/Listening.”

Concern has been raised: “Will we be listened to?” there is the issue of consultation versus being part of the decision-making. However there is the recognition that this is discernment for the universal Church.

The legacy of Forward Together In Hope has created an inertia of reluctance to get involved.

Covid-19 has created difficulties – it has created a lens through which we see problems and opportunities that were pre-existing – but our issues are wider than just those raised through this pandemic.

Q4 Can you name any first fruits of what we are hearing?

The Synod is a Gift. Covid-19 has enabled us to see that everyone matters- the engaged and non-engaged.

It is Urgent. We need to invent a NEW NORM for the Church- ‘People want things to be different.’

There is a tension between description and prescription, between the deposit of faith and our own agenda. Grace walks through this tension.

Consultation is positive. Question: Will the local consultation be fed back to the people before it goes back to the CBCEW?

There are some good examples of prayerful thinking and discernment taking place. How best can we share this information, the good practice and good examples.

Ecumenically – there is the realisation that our problems are similar.

There is a sense of the Church maturing (growing up).
There is a strong desire to be heard.
What’s been good is the recognition that we are the Church which is a beautiful and awesome responsibility.

Next steps:

Bishop Robert offered assurance that people would be listened to.
Reassurance was offered that this would help plan local parish, partnership and diocesan development.

There was reassurance that the findings of the diocesan stage of the process would be shared openly across the diocese and that parishes and partnerships were encouraged to share their reports with those who had contributed.

There are videos available on the diocesan website that offer further formation and explanations of what the Synod is about.

There will be an online diocesan opportunity for people who have been unable to access a more local synod conversation.

The diocesan Synod team are available to work with any groups that would benefit from additional support.

Feedback from Synod Assembly 2, 11th December 2021

Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle