Saturday 10 November 2018

Synod 2020. Liverpool. Number 2

Small talk or big talk?

I'm hoping to keep a sort of Synod dairy to share progress and thoughts with parishioners and can include others in the process here.

I attended one of the series of diocesan Open Meetings for the Synod this week - at St Mary's in Leyland. Those leading it were trying to set out the process and how it works to about 250 -300 people gathered in St Mary's Church. (It has a completely separate Blessed Sacrament chapel.) 

One of the perimeters is that it is  diocesan synod, so can obviously only address matters that the bishop actually has control over. Even in some of the initial comments from the audience, this didn't seem to have sunk in for everyone. I suspect this will be a recurring theme.

There was much talk of reaching out to and addressing the lapsed and the young (sadly, two rather overlapping categories) and also getting them involved in the synod process. Here we come up against what we might call the great matter - if such people are not coming to church, how are we to get them to come to a synod? In a sense, we need a synod precisely that they have left us.

From the Leaders of the meeting - both clerical and lay - there was an emphasis on listening. I was reminded of the many aphorisms carrying the lesson that one first needs to be taught and be thoughtful in order to have something sensible to say. Not to say that there weren't  also some comments well worth hearing.

It was noted publicly that the vast majority of those attending might be classed as "those no longer young". One older gentleman reflected that in his day when he was growing up, the Mass was in Latin, attending church was compulsory and there was a certain regimented attitude towards practising the Faith. In going on to seem to reject all that as a way of passing on the Faith to the young, he seemed not to have noticed that this particular sort of training seems to have stood him in good stead, in that at his now much older age, he had persevered in coming to Mass and might have a decent chance of getting to Heaven.

I reflected that it is possibly a lack of teaching, education, proper catechesis in the full glories of the Faith that might have had some part to play in so many people leaving the practise of their faith, precisely because it has been undersold to them. Could it be that in reaching out to the world, we have compromised the supernatural to make Jesus more palatable but in doing so have robbed Him of His Power? We can agree and indeed co-operate with atheists and with members of any other religion on  a programme of social justice but Jesus does not stop there. The reason for our concern for social justice is salvation to eternal life for us and for others. We cannot stop in the world, we need to lead them on to be aware of sin, God's justice, repentance, penance, miracles, Saints and Angels, the battle for souls, the glory of the Resurrection, Hell and Heaven. You know, all those things we have a slight embarrassment about in front of our oh so modern and sophisticated friends.

Have we become a Church that no longer forms souls but rather, caters to selves?

For a little example. The challenge of fasting twice a week (traditionally on Wednesdays and Fridays - the days of Our Lord's betrayal and death) is not just a modern faddy diet plan but perhaps just the sort of challenge that idealistic young people looking for an alternative lifestyle to the consumerism laying waste to our natural resources might be seeking.

"As we pray so we believe" says the old adage. Our prayer at the start of the meeting was very lay-orientated. At no time did one of the priests step up to do anything "priestly". (It is possible that there might have been a blessing at the very end - I had to run out to get my car clear of blocking people in.) The prayers, even those with the format of a "collect" (a prayer that collects into one the prayers of the individual members of the congregation) were said by all together. Our one song / hymn had the aura of trying to whip us a slightly fatigued Pentecostal revival meeting. (Though I admit that might be the biased view of one who is not overly keen on campfire songs being transported into the formal worship space - though I do like a sing-song around the campfire and the food, and hopefully beer, that usually go with it!)

The limiting of the liturgy to the colloquial and earthbound is perhaps another area where we might look to challenge our concepts on what will catch the eye of the world and lead people to raise their eyes to Heaven, so that their faces can be lit up by God's glory instead of the pale and self-absorbed reflection from their i-phone or tablet screen. 

Contrary to the prevailing concept of relativism, we are not the ones who give things meaning. God gives things meaning.

What I hope for the Synod is that we can hear some different voices, rather than the same ones we've heard for some time now. Otherwise we will just be endorsing one another in the same ideas that perhaps have not served us as well as we might have hoped over recent decades. The same voices repeating the same things to one another (but not as funny as the Two Ronnies). Instead of the big talk of the Faith - only small talk of things earth bound.


Simon Platt said...

No answers from me, Father, I'm afraid, but I do have a question which has been puzzling me since I saw your first post on the topic, and which ties in with the business of prayers led by laity.

Isn't a synod meant to be for bishops?

vetusta ecclesia said...

When I attend diocesan meetings the opening prayer reeks of the Protestant conventicle. When I suggested that one of our meetings could start with an ordinariate Mass, given the number of their clergy serving us and the widespread ignorance about the Ordinariate, I was met with horrified and disbelieving silence!

Grand Priory of Great Britain said...

Hi Simon. No, a synod can be for a wider gathering of the church.
“The Diocesan Synod is an assembly of selected priests and other members of Christ’s faithful of a particular Church which, for the good of the whole diocesan community, assists the Diocesan Bishop in accordance with the following canons.” (Canon 460).