October 7, 2021
But what does this mean? It means that over the next few months the People of God (that’s us) are called to gather, to listen to one another and dialogue about our experiences as the Church. We are called to do this through an authentic experience of discernment and reflection seeking the “voice of the Holy Spirit.” We will enter into synodal process as the Local Church. That is, the Church of West Virginia, where each parish in turn will gather then send their synodal reflection into the Diocese. One year from now, the second phase will begin when The Synod of Bishops will gather to reflect on the work of these Local churches. However, the process does not end there. The final stage will follow with the implementation of the results of this synodal journey.
As part of the Local Church, we here at St. Agnes will gather to prayerfully reflect, dialogue and listen from our perspective, our context and our local circumstances. How will we do this? We will turn to scripture, to liturgy and to prayer. In our listening to one another we will seek to discern the authentic voice of the Holy Spirit given to us all at baptism.
It is clear to all of us that we are entering into this process at a time of great stress and conflict. The Preparatory Document reminds us that this is a time of global pandemic, local and international conflict, climate change, migration, injustice, racism, violence, persecution, and increasing inequality across humanity. “In the Church, the context is also marked by the suffering experienced by minors and vulnerable people due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.”
But these crises cry out for the change that can come precisely from the synodal process! Now is the time for we, the Church to be renewed by the Holy Spirit! By listening to the voice of God in our midst we become more closely united to one another and more able to embrace the mission the Spirit sends us out to pursue as prophetic witnesses to the Gospel in the world.
The New Testament is clear that the Holy Spirit given at Baptism is expressed in a variety of charisms all of which are given for the building of the Body of Christ. When the Book of Acts describes the Council of Jerusalem we read of a Spirit-guided synodal process wherein everyone exercises their gifts through various roles and contributions and the Holy Spirit guides the Church in fidelity to the Gospel. Each of us has gifts to give and contributions to make in this process. Synodality is an essential part of our nature as Church and by participating in this journey together we have an opportunity to discern how to move forward as the entire People of God, the Church. (adapted from Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church and The Vademecum).