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Synod could be a strategic forum to drive diocesan potential – New report states

“The United Dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough have the potential to be a powerful force for good in these trying times. Annual Synod meetings then become a key strategic forum to facilitate and realise this.” These are the concluding words of a report presented at Diocesan Synod 2020 which evaluates the new format of Synod which was introduced in 2019. It also looks at developing the diocesan Come & C discipleship programme.

‘Developing Come & C for a New Decade: Report from Synod 2019’ by Dr Maria Feeney of Dublin City University’s School of Law and Government reflects on last year’s Diocesan Synod which featured a panel discussion and roundtable discussions for members for the first time. It also looks at how Synod can develop for the future.

You can read the report in full here

Dr Feeney presented an overview of some of the key findings of the evaluation conducted after last year’s Synod at this year’s virtual synod last month.

“Synod 2019 was an overwhelming success and its evaluation offered some interesting insights. New elements were introduced to the order of business such as the Panel Discussion and the Roundtable Discussion and they were beneficial for many reasons. From an operations perspective, Synod 2019 demonstrated that new structures were very effective for creating a positive environment that would facilitate opportunities for meaningful engagement and reflection amongst members. Furthermore, Synod effectively served as a first step for considering how the Dioceses might continue to move forward with the Come &C initiative and ‘vision build’ as it prepared to embrace a new decade,” she stated.

A survey carried out after last year’s Synod found that almost 95% of members believed the panel discussion, which featured five speakers who highlighted different initiatives that were going on in the dioceses, was an interesting activity. A total of 68% of respondents noted that the roundtable discussion was a beneficial exercise saying that it provided an opportunity for each individual to participate and have their voice heard. Dr Feeney reported that people enjoyed listening to and learning from each other and appreciated the opportunity for engagement between lay and clerical people.

Dr Feeney said there were opportunities to improve aspects of Synod going forward. She pointed out that the data demonstrated that Synod’s age demographic lacked diversity with two thirds of the respondents to the post–Synod survey aged over 60. There was no respondent under 30 and just three were in the 30–39 years bracket. She suggested that the mid–week evening timing of Synod presented a challenge to younger people and those with families.

There was also no person of colour at Synod 2019. “This is unfortunate because it does not reflect the ethnically diverse profiles of many parishes across the United Dioceses, or indeed the country’s population more broadly. And as you will see in this slide one respondent noted that such lack of diversity is “not appropriate” in modern Ireland. Other respondents expressed their regret at this reality but it in no way suggests that there is an unwillingness to be non–inclusive given the breadth of ideas, and genuine wish for meaningful engagement with people of other faiths as noted from the data that emerged from The Church and Other Faith roundtable groups,” Dr Feeney noted.

At Synod 2019 Dr Feeney presented the findings of the Come & C report and she said these were well received by those who responded to the survey. Synod members reported that it was encouraging and invigorating to hear the many positive and innovative ways people and parishes were doing church in response to the Come & C invitation. She suggested that the use of the Five Marks of Mission framework in people’s own parishes had captivated and energised many on their journey of intentional discipleship.

Concluding her presentation, Dr Feeney paid tribute to her Come & C co–author, Dr David Tuohy SJ, who died in January 2020. “David has left us with a rich legacy – a multi– faceted one demonstrating his commitment to theology, scholarship, education and ecumenism. I believe David’s legacy serves as a fine example of how we can all learn to grow in the image and likeness of God,” she commented.

You can watch Dr Feeney’s presentation to Synod in the short video below:


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