Pastoral Letter for the First Sunday of Advent

Sunday 28th November 2021

In his Pastoral Letter marking the first Sunday of Advent, Bishop John provides us with more detail on the return to Mass and the launch of the Diocesan Stage of the Universal Synod.

Last week the Bishops of England and Wales issued a new statement: ‘Honouring Sunday’, which you can read in full here. They have asked us all to recognise our privilege and the gift of participating together in the Eucharist and rethink some of our recently formed Sunday patterns.

Following on from that statement Bishop John also clarifies the return to Mass under current public health conditions:

Given the recent history and unpredictability of the Covid pandemic, and the fact that we are still experiencing high rates of infection in some areas, it is understandable that some people, particularly those with underlying medical conditions, may still feel that they should be cautious. This is to be accepted without question.

If you feel that you cannot attend Mass for the time being, please do not consider yourself in any way excluded or at fault. We look forward to welcoming you back when you judge the time is right.

He then goes on to address the launch of the Diocesan Stage of the Universal Synod called by Pope Francis, entitled ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. Bishop John explains:

A Synod is not a debating event where people bring their arguments and opinions in order to win a discussion. A Synod is a prayerful journey of listening to what the Holy Spirit may be saying to the Church at this time so that we may live the Gospel values and continue the mission of Christ in our own times, with the present needs and opportunities. We are all invited by Pope Francis to take part. Indeed the very word Synod means on a journey TOGETHER. It is important that in our Diocese we listen to each other, we listen to the voices of those not in the church pews, and together we listen to the Word of God which has been handed down to us.

In our Diocese this can be the first step in a longer and deeper listening journey to help us shape the Diocese for the future, building on the work of Hope in the Future and other positive initiatives. In this journey it is important that we hear from people who have drifted from the Church and feel that the Church does not offer them the assistance that they need or is not fulfilling its mission as they understand it. We will need to listen to those on the margins of the Church or of society and those who feel excluded from either. It will be important to hear, also, from people of other traditions about how they perceive the Church.

Bishop John goes on to welcome the progress that was made at COP26, whilst also emphasising how far we still have to go to address the climate emergency.

He ends by saying: We have challenging times ahead, so let us continue to pray “Stay with us, Lord, on our Journey”.

You can read the whole of the pastoral letter here or listen to a recording of Bishop John explaining the synodal process here.

You can participate in the first stage of the Synod collectively or individually by providing your feedback to us.

Pope Francis has provided us with a set of Reflection Questions to address, both personally and in group meetings. These can be found here.

You can submit your feedback online individually here or download the paper version here.

To answer as a parish group, download this document.

The closing date for submissions is Tuesday 1st March 2022. Your contribution is invaluable and will make a considerable difference to the future of the church in our diocese and across the world.

For more information on how to participate in the Synod, visit:

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