For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission – The launch of the Diocesan Phase of the Synodal Process.
This month, Pope Francis opens a two-year Synodal Journey with three phases (diocesan, continental, universal) of consultations and discernment, culminating with an assembly in October 2023 in Rome. The overall theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission”. Pope Francis will start the Journey in Rome on 10th October.
The Synodal journey is concerned with how teaching can be lived and applied in the changing contexts of our time. This journey is an opportunity to listen to each other and the Holy Spirit and to reflect on our future path. We want everyone to have an opportunity to express their views. Resources will be provided by the Diocese to parishes, schools and groups to support this listening and discernment process.
Our local listening phase will take place over the coming months, starting with a Liturgy led by Bishop Mark at the Cathedral at 4pm on Sunday 17th October. All are welcome to attend in person, but the Liturgy will be live streamed and available to access on the Diocesan You Tube Channel.
Everyone is also warmly invited to attend one of our initial introductory online events to explain the Synodal journey in more detail and how we plan to go forward in our Diocese. There are two options:
You may well say: “To give thanks to God for this beautifully restored place of worship”
And, of course, you’re right.
But perhaps today is a good time to look at this with a bit more focus.
Just how are we giving thanks to God? And apart from the completion of the restoration work, why do we need to do that?
Most especially, why are we doing it within a form of worship which we call “The Mass”?
What’s that all about? Why don’t we just sing a couple of hymns, listen to a bit of Holy Scripture, say a few prayers and then enjoy a bite to eat together as we congratulate each other?
Well, the answer lies in the words of Jesus which we’ve just heard.
When he said: “The Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of men,”
he was talking about his death, about his execution.
If we want to know what God is like, the best thing we can do is to look at Jesus from Nazareth. We say that Jesus is the incarnation of God, which means that he is God in human terms.
Jesus was gentle, patient, kind, compassionate, accepting and forgiving. Jesus was love in a human body, and this is the nature of the God whom we worship.
The God of whom St John says:
“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that all who believed in him should not perish, but might have everlasting life.”
Jesus is the love of God, and he died because he couldn’t stop proclaiming God’s love.
The message of the Cross is God saying:
“ You can despise me, reject me, ridicule me and beat me. You can even nail me to a cross to die, and I’ll still go on loving you.”
We are loved, all of us, whoever we are, whatever our religious tradition is, whether we believe in God or not. We are loved because we are all part of God’s creation. We are all part of that fountain of life which springs from the loving creative energy of Almighty God.
When we’re drawn into a realisation of this love; we’re enabled to see much more clearly that love and sacrifice always go together. Our own human experiences teaches us this in any event; but when we see the death of Jesus as the sacrifice which draws God’s creation back to him, then we begin to see that this sacrifice was the most significant event in history.
On the night before he died, Jesus had supper with his friends. He took some bread and broke it. “This” he said, “Is my body which will be broken for you.” He poured out some wine and said “This is my blood, which will be shed for you and for many”
“Do this to remember me”.
When you remember something, you put it back together, you make it present again.
At the Mass, the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice of God is made present to us. An event which happened in history is made present in our time.
Our offerings, our lives are joined to the sacrifice of Jesus and are given to God.
And they are given back to us as the very life of Christ himself.
Our humanity becomes infused with the divine and we are enabled to live the life of Jesus, the life of God. The life which will pass right through death to continue to give thanks to God in the company of all those whom we continue to love and who have gone before us.
This is why we give thanks to God. And yes, we can do it in a cathedral or in a shed. We can do it with hundreds of others or with one or two. But our natural instinct is to worship God in the best way that we can, bringing to him the best gifts that we can afford.
And so, we do it today in this beautiful church, lovingly restored as a mark of our love for him who first loved us.
The Service will be to show our support and pray, worship and commit to take our own action to play our part in reducing our impact on the planet. Our aim is to make this an informal style of worship that is accessible and inclusive for all.
Ideally, we would love for this to be an ecumenical service with churches in the area but recognise that synchronising dates can be quite problematic so we have committed to a date and invite all those churches who wish to join us to come along.
We have provisionally booked the shelters to enable this to be an outdoor service and attract those who may be visiting Lyme but this is not definite and we are just exploring all possibilities.
It would be fantastic if you felt you would like to join us either to take part or be part of the congregation. Do not hesitate to be in touch if you feel you could contribute or would like to be involved in some way.
Rev Nicky Davies,
Axe Valley Mission Community Mobile: 07931 413629 (Day off: Wednesday)
As we step into this academic year, I sincerely hope that we will say good bye to Covid and the many demands it has placed on our school community.
Without dwelling too much on it, following the lockdown in March 2020, so much stopped. It affected two academic years, closing down so much of our school life and the experiences of our children and community.
To say that everyone was ready for the summer break in the hope of returning to an autumn term with more normality is perhaps the understatement of the year.
During the summer holiday I visited the two Liverpool cathedrals.
The Anglican Cathedral is the largest cathedral and religious building in Britain, and the eighth largest church in the world. It has a traditional Gothic form but actually the design was drawn up in more modern times. The completed design was agreed in 1903 with work beginning in 1904. The cathedral was built in several phases and was finally completed in 1978.
The sense of scale within the building is incredible. It creates a sense of awe and wonder. A sense of God.
The Catholic cathedral could not be more contrasting. Built of grey concrete it is circular in form. As you step inside you are faced with a huge conical form rising upwards. It is filled with light, shining from the thousands of stained-glass windows. At the cathedrals centre there is a sculpture raised up high: an immense steel crown; the thorned crown of Jesus.
This is the largest Catholic Cathedral in the UK.
There are 13 chapels around its perimeter.
Both Cathedrals had complex journeys from conception to reality. I wanted to focus a little on the story behind the Catholic Cathedral.
Liverpool has the highest percentage of Catholics than any other city in the UK. In 1847 with a surge in Catholics who travelled from Ireland, the then Bishop decided that it was time for Liverpool to have a cathedral. Although a lady chapel was built it didn’t get any further due to the demands on the diocese to build schools, orphanages and churches for the growing Catholic population.
In 1922 the then Bishop raised again the discussions about having a cathedral in the city. By 1933 an ambitious plan was underway. Almost £1million had been raised by the Catholic population. This was a time of struggle and monies were raised from very local people making extra ordinary sacrifices and church communities holding fund raising events. In the next few years, the foundation stone and the crypt were completed but the finished building costs were now estimated at £27 million.
With the second world war and the challenges of its aftermath the project was again shelved.
In 1953 the original ambitious plans were scaled back but eventually a new bishop decided that scaling back the plans would never make a viable project so he had them scrapped and the plans were re started. He stated that the project must be realised within five years and come in at a cost of £1m.
Despite the seeming impossibility of this the building work did begin in October 1962.
Less than five years later, on the Feast of Pentecost, 14 May 1967, the completed Cathedral was consecrated.
The completed Cathedral of Christ the King is a dramatic icon of faith, architecture, and human endeavour. An awe-inspiring landmark on the Liverpool skyline. A breath-taking expression of possibility: God’s possibility.
The journey from the first idea for Cathedral to the final completion tells a story of challenge and determination. It reminds me that a straight forward path is not always possible. It strengthens me to know that the people of Liverpool realised the project despite the challenges.
Looking forward into this year we sincerely hope that the story of Covid is behind us and that we will be learning to live alongside it rather than stopped by it.
At the beginning of the Covid journey during and following lockdown 1 there was a national dialogue considering what we might learn, what we might take away from this experience.
For me, for our school, I would hope that it has strengthened people’s understanding that the school experience is so much more than subjects and lessons.
At the very end of last term, we started to sing again in school and to hear the sounds of music lessons. It lifted and moved everyone.
At the very end of term we had a mass here in church for our Year 6 pupils. We were able to invite Year 6 parents and the Year 5 pupils as this allowed us to maintain hubs within the church space. As a congregation we sang three hymns.
Hearing the children singing was very emotional.
At the sign of peace the children turned to each other and immediately there was a hub bub of sound and an energy with such joy as they turned and smiled and greeted each other: Peace be with you.
It was such a restorative moment. Such a moment of something important being recognised.
I love the fact that the two Liverpool Cathedrals are at opposite ends of the same street: Hope Street.
Certainly, we have stepped into this new year with hope.
Hope in the secular sense is recognised as a source of well-being. It gives us a strength that our actions matter, that we can overcome, thus motivating positive actions.
Hope in Christianity is the bed rock of faith. Hope is the birthplace of Christian self-sacrificing love.
Our children are fortunate to know the God of love. To be immersed in the love of Jesus: who doesn’t hold grudges, who doesn’t count the wrong choices but allows us to move on, who is by our side through whatever. A God of hope and possibilities.
I have been reminding the children that none of us is perfect. Some children take me up on this, proclaiming with some indignation that in fact they are perfect!
I explain that God teaches us that we are each unique and loved. That there is nothing we can do to put us outside of God’s love and as importantly there is nothing we can do to attain more of His love. He loves us because we are.
I want them to be released from the burdens of feeling that they have to be perfect. I want them to know that we can get things wrong and move forward, we can learn from this. As a school our teaching and learning approaches are all based on being prepared to have a go, to not be put off when we are stuck or get things wrong. Perfect learners can find the world a stressful place. God loves us wherever we are.
Often the Prodigal Son is remembered because he came back to say sorry and thus his father forgave him. In fact his father had forgiven him before he returned. His father prepared a feast out of his own delight at his son’s return, at the fact that he was, not because of what he had achieved or not achieved.
God’s love is a constant source of hope and strength.
We are not Mary’s Community School, we are St Mary’s Catholic school; we encourage, support and find ways for the community of St Mary’s to be a community of hope and love.
As the prophet Isaiah said; those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.
Our oldest pupils are in Eagle Class – I think that is very fitting.
This year we have furthered developed our Gift Team; the children who bring God light into our school through their actions and words. Our Year 5 leaders will be Gift Team Ambassadors and have accessed training and have been commissioned by the Bishop to this role. We are looking forward to finding ways for them and all of our Gift Team volunteers and all of our children and adults to know God’s love and to shine in his light and love.
We look forward to spending more time with our parish community this year and will hold you in our prayers.
It’s almost impossible to imagine what it
would mean to give our flesh for someone to eat. So try to imagine the effect
which the words we’ve just heard would have had on a group of Jewish people.
For them, as for us, cannibalism was a subject to be avoided. For most of
us even thinking about eating the flesh of another person makes us feel sick.
But, there’s more. It
was, and still is, against the Jewish Law to eat the flesh of an
animal from which the blood hadn’t been properly drained. And yet, here’s
Jesus giving his friends wine to drink which he says is his blood.
So then, how can we take these difficult
words? What do they mean for our relationship with Jesus?
Well, first of all perhaps we need to face
up to the fact that even modern religious practice makes use of ancient
imagery, and it’s a basic biological fact that everything that lives, receives
its life from another life. Many religious rituals testify to this,
and it was common for pagan religions to hold sacred meals in which the
community shared in the life of either their god or their enemy. The
logic being that by eating their god, the worshipper shared in the divine life,
whilst eating the enemy eliminated his or her power.
Christianity borrows this concept in order
to speak of the way in which believers take divine life into themselves.
The beginning of St. John’s gospel tells us that at the incarnation the
“Word was made flesh”. This is the same as saying that the
flesh of Christ contains God’s life for us all.
It’s easy to understand that food and life
go together. Unless we eat physical food we die. Physical food symbolised
by bread, which will of course eventually rot and decay, sustains our physical
life, which as we know, ends in death. This is the bread which Moses gave
to Israel in the desert. Living bread for the Christian community, which
is the new Israel, sustains a lasting life that triumphs over death. If
we want lasting life we must eat this bread of life.
God the Father gives Jesus, the bread from
heaven. The work of Jesus is to give lasting life to believers.
This is what God has commissioned him to do. Our work is to believe in
Jesus, because only then can we benefit from the joint work of Father and
Son. Eating and drinking can be understood as taking the very life of
Jesus into the centre and core of our hearts. We need to saturate our
hearts and our minds and our souls with Jesus, the very life of God. We
need to be so filled with him that his very essence becomes a part of us.
Jesus told his
disciples to believe in what God was doing for them through him. Belief was to
be work for them. Belief is work for us too. All the work that we
are required to do is to have a certainty in our mind and heart about God and
God’s Son. And yet we continue to find this difficult. Some
Christians think that they aren’t doing enough, and some no doubt, think that
they’re doing more than enough. And both of these mistaken positions are
based on works; the good and the bad things that we do. But the centre of
our Lord’s teaching is really quite different.
Bread can’t be shared until it is
broken. Wine can’t be drunk until it’s poured out. We take the
bread and drink from the cup with the knowledge that it was shared with us out
of love, as the ultimate sacrifice for humankind from God.
The heavenly food is made available
through the breaking and bleeding and death of Jesus. This sharing of
himself is sacramentally embodied in the Eucharist, and Jesus explains that
through the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood, we will be
raised up with him on the last day. It’s his promise to live through us
as we receive him.
Jesus said: “I
am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who
believes in me will never be thirsty.” Our tradition values the
sacraments. Jesus himself took bread and broke it; he poured out wine and
offered these things to his followers with the words “This is my
body” and “This is my blood”. He told them and he tells us
through them to keep on breaking, pouring, eating and drinking in order to
remember him. And when we go back to the words “do this in
remembrance of me” in the language which they were first written, there is
very good reason to believe that they mean “do this to make me
Remember this when
you come for communion in a few minutes time, for as you do you are completing
all the work which Jesus requires. Work which will draw you ever more
deeply into the mystery of Christ and keep you in eternal life. The life of
heaven which begins now, not after you’ve died.
In the Eucharist Jesus invites us through love, to the beginning of the fullness of life that only the Son of God can give. A beginning which will lead, through death to a life more glorious than anything we can imagine. Can we pass up such a love as this? Can we honestly turn away from the one who gave himself for us so completely?
As talk of coming out of lockdown progresses and we begin to make small steps to relax our practice the church year has been a great source of strength and encouragement.
On the 4th January we had a training day for staff and everything was focused on next steps. That evening the Government announced a third national lockdown with schools open for keyworker and those pupils with a need to be in school. Over that half term we had about half of the children in school and half out of school accessing school learning. On March 8th all children returned.
It was a confusing time for children. Yes, many were in school and yes all had access to learning and a way to directly contact their class teacher when they weren’t in school. Yes, we were available constantly if parents had concerns or questions…. but it was not what we all needed. We were all ready for more normal.
Easter People – a people of Hope
Before we broke up for Easter, we really wanted the children to have a strong sense of hope. In the true spirit of Easter, we talked to the children about Easter people, those Christians who live a life of gratitude and joy for what God has done through Jesus Christ.
We had celebrations and talked to the children about the exciting possibilities ahead. We also shared lots of chocolate eggs!
On our return we came back quickly to a very settled and happy community. The children now have access to the field most days (although the weather has not been overly kind this month). We have also added lots of Mary images and added flowers around school as part of The Month of Mary.
We have also been replanting in the raised beds and pots around school and introducing a wider range of play equipment throughout May. It feels like life is coming back. Hope is alive.
As we approach Pentecost, we are planting more flowers around school and have some rainbow and flame coloured play resources to share with the children for a special Pentecost day on Monday 24th May. This coming Friday we will be adding new rainbow bunting in the outside area ready for Monday.
I like to think that the timing of Easter and Pentecost and the beginnings of the relaxation of Covid restrictions are no coincidence. It is helping my sense of joy and my desire to reach out and witness as a person of hope. It is reaffirming my own faith in ways that I never expected.
More steps to a new normal
In the last few weeks, we have introduced children’s book bags back into school so that they can take home their reading book and return it each day. Volunteers are starting to return. Music one to one teachers are now back in school. The piano is now facing forwards with the words ‘Music is alive at St Mary’s’ once again visible. On Tuesday mornings you can hear singing in our school. It is wonderful!
We are hoping that it won’t be long before we can plan a school mass again in church. From where we have been in the last year and the small steps out of lockdown it does feel now like it could be a long time coming but it is ahead of us and we are all looking forward to it happening.
We are growing happy, motivated children who work to be the best they can be for themselves and for others – we are growing change makers. Here are a few of our projects that are helping to bring this to life.
School success – Unicef Rights Respecting Silver Award –
We are very pleased to have achieved the Unicef Rights Respecting Silver Award. We have been working on this for two years. The assessment was on Monday 14th May. We sent in lots of paper evidence to the Unicef Awards assessment team and then had a half day assessment where staff and pupils were asked lots of questions.
This has been an important way to evidence how important each child is to us. It is very much an expression of our core values to have justice and compassion at the heart of everyone’s thinking.
Summer Challenge for Bristol Hospital
One of our youngest pupils, Poppy, should have started in school last September but due to a complex heart condition has been unable to join us this year. Poppy has had two long stays in Bristol Children’s Hospital this year.
Her family are extremely grateful to the hospital for their expertise and care as well as their ability to offer the family a place to stay in Bristol so that they could be near to their little one as she went through a challenging operation and long recovery.
We are very hopeful that Poppy will be able to join us in September to re start her school journey.
To thank Bristol Children’s Hospital all of our children are running daily to raise money for the hospital.
See the photos and information on another website page.
You will remember that some of our children were disappointed they were not chosen as school councillors and asked how they could make a difference themselves to school life. From this the Gift Team was born: children keen to shine God’s light into our school. Before lockdown they came up with ideas to bring light: often fund raising and ways to reach out into the community. During lockdown they have been working to be especially kind and have also tried to be accepting of all of the restrictions that have affected them: not seeing family and friends, no birthday events with friends, no sleepovers…. big events in little people’s worlds.
Going forwards, this year, a group of our Year 4 pupils are taking part in some training and will be commissioned by the Bishop as Gift Team Ambassadors. They will coordinate events and support school liturgy and the prayer life of the school.
We have a group of pupils who were working towards their First Communion. This was stopped due to Covid restrictions but we are now talking to Father Anthony about a possible date to take this important sacrament before the end of this school year.
Please keep our children in your prayers and we look forward to sharing more information soon.
St Mary’s Summer Challenge for Bristol Children’s Hospital
When children found out that one of our youngest pupils had spent much of this school year in hospital, they decided to do something to make a difference.
Poppy should have joined us in September but due to a complex heart condition has needed to spend time in Bristol Children’s Hospital.
So, this summer our whole school is running our daily mile with more energy and focus to try to cover the 6,000 miles from our St Mary’s in Axminster to the Olympic stadium in Tokyo. Later in the term we also hope to hold a sponsored bounce with a plan to raise as much money as possible.
We are all really pleased that it looks as though Poppy will be able to join us next September and that she has had excellent care in Bristol.