Synodality featured at ecumenical gathering of Church Leaders

Rev Callan Slipper | Jan 29th, 2023

Synodality may not be a word that trips easily off the tongue of many Christians. Nonetheless the Catholic Church’s synodal process is proving timely for people of many different traditions. On 26 January this year, Anglican theologian and ecumenist, Rev Prof Nicholas Sagovsky, spoke inspiringly about synodality at the Focolare’s annual meeting for Church Leaders from a wide variety of traditions. His topic was: Living as synodal Christians: a fresh approach to Ecumenism.

Nicholas Sagovsky’s thought-provoking talk was scripturally and historically based. It did not shy away from the challenges all Christians face and put into relief how to be in a place of ‘unknowing’ is the right place for the ‘synodal’ Christian. Examples of response to the difficult challenges of synodal living were given by the Brussels-based Catherine Burke and Andreas Amann, the Focolare’s delegates for the zone of Western Europe. They told of the light that can be generated through listening and walking, one step at a time, together on the way.

For the first time since the pandemic, about thirty participants met in person – at the Focolare Centre for Unity Welwyn Garden City, – as well as online. Those online included Nicola Brady, the General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, joining from Belfast, and Bishop Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell, online from Scotland.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Scotland, Ireland, and England and Wales were represented online and in person, alongside representatives from the Church of England and the Church of Ireland as well as from the Lutheran, United Reformed and Moravian Churches. This ecumenical mix was enriched by the presence of two officers from the Salvation Army.

Bishop Robin Smith, formerly the Bishop of Hertford and a long-standing member of the Focolare’s International Secretariat for Ecumenism, guided everyone through the day. Afterwards he said: “Once again the good Lord surprised us by his presence. It truly was a very special time. Nicholas our speaker was superb; and it was evident, both from the moving contributions and in the discussions outside the formal sessions, that everyone was engaged at a very profound level.”


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