Anglesey Island Assembly – For a Synodal Church By Pauline Thomas
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, our seven Faith Communities on Anglesey were engaged in a journey of conversation and prayerful reflection, through many small house groups across Anglesey, in preparation for our Island Assembly to be held May 2020.
The COVID pandemic brought our journey to an abrupt halt! After the interruption of Covid lockdowns, our communities resumed the process. We chose to continue our journey to the Assembly through the themes of the Synod ‘For a Synodal Church’; the new date for our Assembly was Saturday 25 June 2022. We knew that the journey towards the Assembly Day would be just as important as the day itself and the fruitfulness of the day depended on the experience and quality of the journey.
Conversation, Reflection and Prayer
This journey of preparation was a ‘breathing space’ – a sacred pause undertaken by the faith community and began the first week of Advent 2021 through to May 2022. The themes of the four conversations: Communion, Participation, Mission and Hope, were designed to enable us to reflect on our experience of faith and life, as lived in this place; we considered both our common life and call to mission. It was also a hope that through our journey of deep listening we would be better able to contribute to the wider consultation process of the universal Church and the Diocese.
All in our Faith Communities were called to participate in this journey of faith which invited reflection and prayer, as individuals, and in conversation with others. There were seventeen facilitated groups, thirteen of which met in house groups, four groups were facilitated through Zoom conferencing. Each participant was provided with a personal Assembly Conversation and Reflection Booklet that supported the overall process and acted as a personal journal to help capture the experience of each one’s journey to the Assembly.
Between each small ‘conversation group’ gathering, the faithful were each invited to reflect, pray and ponder more deeply the thoughts and ideas that had been shared in their group. Participants were encouraged to record ‘further thoughts’ on the most significant things that had emerged through the shared reflection, group conversation, personal prayerful reflection, and insights that they found most meaningful.
The Anglesey Island Assembly took place on Saturday 25th June. This Assembly was the gathering together of people from our seven Faith Communities. Leading up to this point, there had been 68 small group gatherings all over the Island. Over 100 people took part in these Conversation groups and their reflections and comments were collected and put into a Report which is available to all. So, the Assembly was the final gathering of this stage of the journey.
At the Assembly were 65 people: 61 parishioners, our two priests Joe Daly OMI & Frank Murray OMI, Fr Oliver Barry OMI (Provincial of the Oblates in Britain and Ireland) and Brian Maher OMI (London-based Oblate who was interested in the whole process).
Many others followed the day closely through the livestreaming and a group of five met through Zoom, including one from a camper van in France! The day was organised in four quartets, each one highlighting what had been said in the report, followed by small group discussion, then reporting back briefly by the 12 groups.
Coffee breaks and a lunch break took place, where all could catch up and meet friends and parishioners from other parts of the Island. This was an added bonus – the meeting of people from the various communities who did not know each other very well or at all. The lovely ending of this energetic and joyful day was the evening Mass celebrated together with Fr Oliver. Here are just a few of the comments on the day which were written on “post-it notes” at the rear of St Mary’s Church, Holyhead:
“I have been listened to in a respectful way.”
“Joyful togetherness in the presence of the Holy Spirit.”
“The day was energising. Reassuring that others were thinking along the same lines.”
“Strengthened my sense of belonging and community and gave hope for the future of our communities.”
“Beautifully organised day. Thank you. I leave tired but full of hope.”
‘Being able to LISTEN as well as SPEAK. Lots of hope for the future with lots of enthusiasm.”
“Uplifting, spiritual, so good to meet people from different parishes. Prompted me to get more involved.”
“I have enjoyed today immensely.”
“It has really given me a feeling of positiveness and looking forward to the future. DIOLCH – Thank you!”
“Exceeded all expectations.”
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