The Lindisfarne partnership
Our Mission is
To create a community of love with God at the centre
That reaches out to the world.
We will seek to do this by;
· Building a strong foundation of spirituality, prayer and celebration
· Being welcoming and life-giving
· Helping each other to fulfil our unique potential
· Enthusing our young people and nurturing their relationship to God
· Sharing our gifts with all faiths
· Responding to the changes in society and reaching out to those in need
· Sharing the peace and joy we experience and encouraging
everyone’s personal relationship with Jesus
Please find attached the collated response to Synod 2022-23 from the seven active parishes within the Lindisfarne Partnership.
The process was promoted in different ways in different parishes including group meetings, zoom meetings, telephone discussions and a whole-parish presentation during Sunday Mass. Participants were invited to reflect on where we are as Church and also to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us and what the post-pandemic Church might look like. Group and individual reflections were invited to be submitted either in writing or via the on-line consultation route. The numbers engaging in the process varied from parish to parish with the highest level observed in St Paul’s, the largest Partnership parish.
The process was launched during a particularly active phase of the pandemic and with a relatively short and challenging timescale provided at Parish and Partnership levels. Face to face meetings were not always possible but despite this, the response was surprising in terms of the number of issues and concerns raised and the level of participation achieved. Responses were articulate and well-argued, diverse, often very personal, sometimes critical and there was clear evidence of spiritual underpinning to many of the reflections. With the obvious exception of group meetings, there was probably less listening to others undertaken and more discernment at an individual and personal level. This is very evident in the written submissions received.
Responses from all sources were collated into a single document which was discussed at a Partnership Meeting held on 15th February at Alnwick. Observations were divided into three broad categories; Positives, Concerns and Aspirations. There is an element of subjectivity in categorising observations in this way but a broad consensus that the process used had been valid was achieved within the 15th February Meeting. The number of positive observations was surprisingly large and gave great confidence that the Church is spiritually hungry and keen to come together again as vibrant, post-pandemic, faith communities. Unsurprisingly, the number of concerns raised was significantly larger although many of those were seeking positive outcomes to current issues at some future date. Most aspirations were seeking longer-term Church-wide change.
The main positives not covered elsewhere were:
There is great commitment to our faith amongst the Laity. The Church survived the pandemic and the challenges made us more united. Churches are open again for prayer and services but we need to get back to where we were. Our churches are viewed as welcoming and supportive and we continue to work with other denominations to help those who are less fortunate. The use of new technologies such as streaming of services during the pandemic has shown us what is possible. It can hopefully be adapted in the future to reach out to help the sick, the housebound, the elderly, the lonely and those who feel isolated. The invitation to the Laity to participate in Synod is greatly welcomed and presents an opportunity for positive change. It recognises that the Holy Spirit works through all of us not just the Clergy.
The main concerns not covered elsewhere were:
Provide stability of spiritual leadership in Parishes. Too many parishes have seen frequent and regular changes leading to a loss of continuity. The shortage of priests currently and the Diocesan emphasis on short-term solutions such as mergers and closure of parishes is a major concern. We need to protect our existing clergy and to reduce their workload to enable them to carry out their pastoral role in the best possible way.
We also need to address the historical legacy issues from abuse carried out by members of the Clergy.
The increasing age of our congregations and worries about who will replace us is a great concern. We need to make our services feel safer and more comfortable to encourage the return of long-term absentees.
The Church needs more volunteers and we also need to harness the talents of those in our community. We need to improve contact with families, especially those with young children and not simply leave teaching the Faith to our schools. We need to attract and retain young people in our churches and provide the opportunities through Youth Groups and Youth Leaders to encourage their participation in Church activities.
Does our behaviour and our evident compassion and the expression of our Catholic belief make us appear as missionary and are we sharing resources in the best way possible?
The Church needs to be more influential on issues such as climate change, wars and the search for justice and peace and also finding and implementing solutions to poverty, famine and disease.
Is Canon Law fit for purpose? Many, though not all, believe we need a major overhaul of traditional Church theology and the current rules to enable these to be applied to modern times.
When will Vatican II be fully implemented? In our Diocese we appear to be implementing a strategy that fails to recognise that going back to the former ways of being Church does not meet the spiritual needs of many Catholics who may be forced to seek answers elsewhere.
Will our Bishops listen to the Laity? Many believe that this latest initiative will not bring about real change and some have voiced concerns that editorial control of the final Diocesan submission rests with the Bishop.
The main aspirations not covered elsewhere were:
Improve pastoral care for the dying and allow Deacons to administer the Sacrament of Penance.
Re-build our care of the housebound and the sick involving the whole Parish community.
Re-kindle the spiritual life of our community and place greater emphasis on prayer and re-build the family tradition of attending Mass together. Promote the involvement of children in the Mass e.g. as altar servers. Improve Catechesis in our churches and make greater use of Penitential Services and General Absolution.
There is clear evidence in the reflections received that the process has started a debate about where we are as Church currently and what our direction of travel should be. There is, however, great unease about clericalisation within the Church and that the real power to make decisions within the Church is being concentrated in the hands of a small group of elderly men. Women are under-represented and many feel ignored and marginalised. The Laity in general should be given a greater role in the decision making processes.
The current model for the Church is not sustainable and its traditional role in western society is in decline. We have become more secularised and must now embrace significant change and not be afraid of it. The Church of the future must be more outward facing, more inclusive, more open and transparent, more accountable and identified by its community focus rather than its buildings. We need to remove the boundaries which prevent us from reaching out and reduce the emphasis on slavishly following rules. There is a real danger that unless we change, our churches could simply become museums in the longer term.
A small but significant group of respondents from two rural parishes took a different view on some issues arguing that the views of women were well respected and valued by the clergy. They also espoused the value of traditional, orthodox, creative and compassionate Catholicism and the attractiveness of the Latin Mass and would not wish to see any significant change to current Catholic theology and core beliefs.
There was very little in responses on the Church’s future growth and more emphasis on getting back to where we were before the pandemic. We need to consolidate before we can start to grow again.
Going forward, the majority of respondents would like us to continue to be a welcoming church but also kinder, more tolerant, more forgiving and more inclusive especially in its treatment of divorced Catholics and those who have been baptised but have walked away. We need to encourage each other to listen more, to be more reflective, more eager to discuss issues and less eager to criticise others.
This Church of the future should be able to embrace radical changes to meet modern challenges and become more democratic. If the Church is to grow in the mid to long-term, we must have more priests including married priests and women priests and stronger and more sustainable communities.