The School for Synodality, established by Avril Baigent and Chris Knowles as a partnership between the Diocese of Northampton and Synod Fruits, and exists with the intention to facilitate the Church in regaining this sense of purpose and mission. It also seeks to build upon the methods that parishes and diocese had previously employed in experiences of encounter through the Synod process.

In July, the School for Synodality had launched its initial and foundational resources to assist the Church in incorporating new synodal habits and practices. This mainly focused on how we approached decisions, spiritual conversations, and prayerful discernment in meetings.

The project had also commenced two 15 month programmes; one for parishes seeking to progress in their response to their synodal listening, and the other for those leaders who were forming new pastoral ventures that would aid our Churches in their synodal conversion.

Furthermore, details had been made available online about their webinar series which had been scheduled for October and November, aimed at nurturing synodal practice at the local level. It had been set to feature speakers such as Professor Anna Rowlands, Dr Jessie Rogers, Maurizio Lopez, Fr Matthew Nunes and Fr Philip Inch, with another webinar being organized in partnership with CAFOD.

Over the subsequent 18 months, the school plans to concentrate on 5 areas of work:

• The production of practical and high-quality resources to integrate synodality into the everyday life of the Church
• Two programmes of support and formation for innovators in the Church and those parishes wanting to evolve synodally
• The growth and strengthening of networks of practitioners across England and Wales engaged in work on synodality
• A communication programme designed to disseminate our resources and the vision of Synodality as widely as possible
• Interaction with our academic group comprised of individuals from different disciplines to ensure our work is anchored in church teaching, and to deepen the relationship between practitioners and academics

Sr Nathalie, Undersecretary of the Synod Office, had endorsed the project, claiming 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 was confident that the project could accomplish 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 had stated 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”.

More information about the project was available at SchoolforSynodality.org.uk.