Synod 2010: Introduction to ACT -- Ed Walsh
We’re here to talk about “Claiming our place at the table”, the theme of Synod 2010. First, let’s acknowledge that the “table” is a metaphor. It’s a metaphor for the gathering of the Catholic assembly in our contemporary world. Claiming our place at the table is about bringing our gifts, our vision, our longing to the larger Catholic assembly. This is not about us; it’s about being witnesses of Jesus today.
What does this metaphorical “table” look like? Does the table look like a grand table where we join an esteemed group of counselors to advise our ruler?……. No!....... The table looks like the table where the women and men who were the companions of Jesus gathered after His ascension. Our table is a mundane gathering of ordinary, flawed folks, inspired by the person Jesus and by His vision. We are responding to the Spirit at work within us. Others may try to suppress that Spirit, but we will not suppress ourselves; we will stay true to ourselves. More importantly, we will stay true to the Spirit’s call.
Where do we find this metaphorical “table” today?…..... Well… that’s the central problem! There really isn’t a table like that today. Our current Catholic community is based on the vertical relationship of rulers and subjects, a community based on dictates and rulings. The “table” we’re talking about is based on the horizontal relationships of equals in Christ Jesus, a community guided by discernment and collegiality. We need to build that table. Without that table of horizontal relationships, we would be putting new wine into old wineskins.
The question we are addressing today, at this Synod, is “How can we influence our Catholic culture to better witness Jesus’ core teachings?” What can we do now to bring the gift of our vision into our local Catholic community? We have started proposing some practices and actions that we could take to become the change we want; and to build the Church community we envision.
I mentioned the proposed practices and actions. What do we mean by those terms? “Practices” are things that we can do as individuals to create a church culture that reflects our understanding of the vision of Jesus. “Actions”, however, are things that we need to do as a group to create a church community that reflects our understanding of the vision of Jesus. As an example, an individual “practice” related to inclusive language could be “to personally use gender inclusive language when referring to God in conversations with family and friends, to refer to God as “she” as well as “he”. That’s one example of a “practice”. An example of an “action” could be “to form a group to develop informational materials on the topic of inclusive language and to host forums within the Catholic community to stimulate open dialog on that topic. That’s one example of an “action”.
In this afternoon’s break-out sessions you will be asked to recommend both practices and actions. The recommended practices are by nature individual. After the Synod, we each can individually incorporate the recommended practices into our lives as we see fit. The Coalition’s website will display the practices prioritized in today’s break-out sessions.
The actions, however, are group efforts that need planning and coordination. Recommended actions need special attention. They need to be worthy of the heavy lifting. The action this coalition takes will be based on the recommendations that were prioritized at the Synod.
How will we implement the actions that you recommend this afternoon?
1. We have started forming an Action Coordinating Team (or “ACT”).
2. The next stage in preparing for action is for all of us to place ourselves into the interest groups where we feel called to action. You are invited to sign-up for the interest groups that call to you.
3. After the Synod, the ACT Core Team will take the prioritized recommendations from and form a coherent Action Plan.
4. Then, before the end of October, they will convene each of the interest groups to launch the Action Teams needed to implement that plan, the plan based on your prioritized recommendations.
The Action Teams are how you and I will start claiming our place at the table within the local Catholic community.
When we look the work that is needed, we see two basic types of Action Teams: topic oriented Action Teams and organizing Action Teams.
The topic oriented Action Teams will work to develop expertise and to raise awareness within the Catholic community by providing informational materials and by hosting forum on specific topics that express our vision of Church.
We also need organizing Action Teams. The organizing Action Teams will help build the networks of horizontal relationships within Catholic community. This organizing work will involve bring people together to share their hopes and their concerns for our Catholic community. The organizing Action Teams will help those involved form representative regional councils and a diocesan council through which they can address those hopes and concern and speak out to the broader community. The organizing Action Teams will invite everyone who is attracted to our vision of a community in Christ Jesus: the ordinary members of the Catholic community, the professional church workers, the ordained and the non-ordained.
So how are we claiming our place at the table?
- We are claiming our place at the table by individually engaging in practices that can influence the culture of our Catholic community and practices that can help us personally become more effective members of the community.
- We are claiming our place at the table by forming topic oriented Action Teams to bring the gift our vision and to raise awareness in the broader Catholic community.
- We are claiming our place at the table by forming organizing Action Teams to build the horizontal networks and councils of equals through which can address and speak out on Catholic community issues.
Our table will exist within the current Catholic community. Our table is where we will be the change that we are called to. Our table is where we will boldly proclaim our vision. Paraphrasing Gamaliel in Acts, Chapter 5, if our vision is only a man made thing it will disappear; but, if it comes from the Spirit, it will be a source of new life for our Church. This is our framework for action. This is how you are invited to claim your place at the table.