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Why Synodality? To form disciples

This is the third in a series of five blogs answering the question "Why synodality?" Thought leader Simon Sinek says people buy your why, so it's absolutely necessary to be clear about the why. That's what these five blogs intend to contribute...language and logic that explains why synodality is the way for the Church in the third millennium. These blogs are for those of you already convinced who want different language and logic to share synodality with others. But perhaps more importantly, these blogs are for those sitting on the fence, not sure if they are "buying" this... the neutral, the curious, the "let's see what happens" and the "ready to go, but don't know how."

One of the most stunning differences between where I live now and where I lived immediately before this is the night sky. Here it's possible to see so much more...more constellations, more planets, more airplanes, more satellites, more twinkling and shooting...more. The array is breathtaking, drawing me toward two realities: I'm small in comparison. Miniscule in fact. AND...I am part of this wondrous world, a contributor to creation. Both are humbling.

And both realities play into an understanding of synodality, and why it's so important. You see, we who are baptized are part of the Body of Christ, the entire, vast, beautiful, influential bunch. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and we walk today with companions across all races, creeds, cultures, and nations. Yes, we may be small, but we belong to this amazing people. We are in communion with Christ and with each other, and we share Christ's work of bringing the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. We are part of the people Christ has called to contribute to this creation. And both of these realities are humbling as well.

How do we contribute? What do we do? Where do we begin? These are the questions of disciples throughout the ages. If they are your questions, then you are ready to embrace the participation that comes from your communion with Christ and others, and from Christ's call to mission. You are ready to be the kind of disciple that exudes Jesus' worldview, attitudes and practices...synodal worldviews, attitudes and practices. "How so?" you ask.

By understanding why synodality, particularly participation, is so important to your discipleship. So let me just list the ways first and we'll look at some of them a little more closely afterward.

Why is synodality important? Because its practice forms disciples who

1. Live together as Jesus intends: collegially and collaboratively.

2. Practice discernment in common, a move from "I" to "we" with the Holy Spirit in charge.

3. Reveal transparency and accountability through the widespread and open decision-making processes, fostering trust and ongoing discussion.

Each of these attitudes and practices are how the baptized participate synodally. And each of them have consequences, when practiced.

Collegiality and collaboration flatten the steep pyramid of governance, allow the Holy Spirit's gifts to surface, and honor Jesus' teaching that in him there are not stark divisions (Gal. 3:28) , but rather one Body with many gifts (1 Cor. 12:12-27).

Discernment in common moves participants from "I" to "we", the "we" that has one purpose only and that is to discern God's will and then to figure out together how to carry it out. Dialogue, debate, discussion and disagreement all belong as the participants seek to hear the Spirit's voice, held in communion by that singular desire.

Transparency, accountability and therefore greater trust and ongoing discussion emerge when all the baptized are invited to participate as they are equipped, and where widespread discussion is the norm. Communication around these experiences removes the darkness, making real Jesus' promise that what was hidden will be revealed (Luke 8:17).

Pope Francis invites us to dream of this Church and to embrace synodality as a way for it to come to pass. So let's dream for a minute of what a parish who is achieving this kind of participation would be like. Why? Because if we can dream it, we can do it!

Imagine removing the idea that it doesn't matter what I say, Father is going to do whatever he wants and replacing it with, Father desires that we all gather together, bringing our perspectives, experience, prayer, study and hope, to discover what God wants of us. We'll work out of our gifts and charisms, and even in disagreement and debate, listen for the voice of the Spirit. Imagine, believing with poet Gloria Anzaldua, that "We don't want to be stars, but parts of constellations." Imagine that's the environment for staff meetings, Parish Council gatherings, parish town halls! Synodal parishes have just this kind of participation: collegial and collaborative, in search of God's will and the way to carry it out.

Imagine removing the burden of all decision-making from the clergy and lay leaders, and replacing it with discovering the decision the Holy Spirit wants! Imagine moving from the burden and power of "I" to the grace and gift of "we." Imagine being able to speak hard truth into a room infused with the common love for the Spirit, the prophetic and the difficult. Imagine, an end to the meeting after the meeting, where truth and perspective are shared with one or two! A synodal Church where decisions are made through discernment in common, where participation seeks out the prophets, the voices on the margins, the outliers and the difficult is possible!

And one final dream...the dream of transparency and accountability, of openness within decision-making processes and outcomes. I dream of a time when I can trust that each major decision came from a discernment in common, and of a time when I was invited to be part of that decision if I chose. I dream of a time when I can trust that experts, signs of the times, the Deposit of Faith and lots of prayer informed decisions. I dream of a time when any decision can be questioned and re-considered if there's too little transparency and accountability.

This is why synodality is important. Its attitudes and practices enable discipleship. Its needs demand participation of all the baptized, who will be formed for just such work. It centers God's will, God's way as revealed by the Holy Spirit and invites collaboration and collegiality to discover it. It offers us all a way to live as Jesus intended: in communities where truth spoken in love is prayed with, where decisions are informed by a wide variety of knowledge streams, and where God's will is the sole desire and God's ways our ways.

Communion, mission and participation are the significant elements within synodality. These three blogs have added to the conversation about why synodality is so important. If you are persuaded, here's what you can do next as an individual:

  1. Share these blogs with others who are also persuaded but need language and logic.

  2. Share these blogs with the fence-sitters you know...the skeptics about change, those who are waiting to see if this really takes hold.

  3. Pray and ask the Spirit what you are to do to more fully participate on the #synodjourney.

  4. Invite those in your sphere of influence to discuss, dialogue and dream together using this blog series on "Why Synodality?" Share the fruits of these discussions and dreams with your parish/diocesan leadership.

  5. Support the Pentecost Vigil Project and her partners as we seek to Unleash the Spirit of Synodality: subscribe, give, write, volunteer with us, become a partner and join our prayer!

If you have a circle of influence, here are some things your group/organization can do:

  1. Partner with the Pentecost Vigil Project if you are an organization. Subscribe if you are a group of individuals!

  2. Link our website with yours and let us know you've done that so we can link yours to ours!

  3. Guest blog with us and share our blogs on your site!

  4. Invite us to participate in your synod-related activities.

  5. Pray for the Synod on Synodality and for our organization, that we remain always guided by the Holy Spirit!

We make the #synodroad by walking together along it, and inviting others to join. The Spirit is guiding us and it's an exciting time to tell everyone you know WHY synodality is so important and invite them to start the journey! See you on the road...

Photo Unsplash/Patrick Perkins

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