This is our sacred and holy pilgrimage week, of journeying with Jesus and more acutely with each other. For me, this pilgrimage began on Friday evening at the Loud Sky exhibition at The Lock Up in Newcastle. Loud Sky is a powerful collaborative art exhibition featuring works from five Hunter-based artists who have created new works responding to stories of survival. These stories were uncovered through the Royal Commission into the Institutional Response to child sexual abuse in the Hunter region in 2016. The exhibition runs until 21 May 2023. More information is available at https://thelockup.org.au/loud-sky/.
I encourage you to take the time to visit the exhibition, as it tells part of our diocesan story and gives voice to some of those who were harmed.
It was confronting, walking through the ‘cells’ of The Lock-Up, displaying the artwork of artists who captured the stories of survival in the aftermath of the trauma of sexual abuse. In particular, I found the timeline for our diocese, from 1995 to our present time to be a space of truth-telling, while exploring the story of my own experience of coming to the diocese in 2005 and all that has passed since that time.
As I listened to Justice Peter McClellan, who served as the Chief Royal Commissioner of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse from January 2013 to December 2017, I felt the pain of the many who gathered at the opening of this exhibition. The photo at the top of this message is of those gathered in the ‘yard’ of the Lock Up for the opening of the exhibition.
Over the weekend, I have been reflecting upon our synodal journey, locally, nationally and across the universal church. This synodal journey calls us to walk with the other, listening deeply and connecting. I don’t need to have words on this journey of walking beside the other, just silence and respect. I sense the synodal journey is one of listening to the ‘cry of our world’, of humans who are suffering, of a planet that is crying out and of the very ecosystems that support us, impelling us to unite with them. Sometimes for me, silence is all I have to offer.
I felt this plea for accompaniment again on Sunday at the Palm Sunday Rally for Peace and Refugees at Civic Park. People from a range of diverse groups gathered, respectfully, listened to each other, sang and participated in circle dancing for the good of all. I sensed in all gathered, the deep desire for peace.
I am sure synodality is calling us to stand in solidarity, not only within our church but also beyond its walls. We are not an island, and the Holy Spirit is summoning us to go out and join with others on the pathway of change of which humanity is in need. This is what it means to be a missionary pilgrim, to be connected in a trinitarian relationship with our God, ourselves and all of creation. It calls us to pass from the ‘I’ to the ‘us’, the ’we’.
I invite you to reflect on our synodal path/framework, as shown in the diagram below:
We are being urged to listen deeply, to be relational, to research the issues that are surfacing, and then, through a process of discernment, to move towards taking action. These actions may be personal or communal, but actions that must be responsive to the needs of the world in which we find ourselves.
Because of our baptism, we are being called to a pathway of transformation, one in which we will learn from the other, particularly the vulnerable. Being uncomfortable, will stir in us a response, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. By being open to God’s grace, and giving people a voice, giving space for the Spirit to enter in, we may have the opportunity to become the call of God for the Church of the third millennium. This requires of us to open the doors and go out, not expecting people to come in and find us.
May this Holy Week be a sacred time for you personally and may it be a blessed time for our diocesan community as we reflect together, the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, as his disciples.
I finish this message with the Prayer for the Synod on Synodality 2021 – 24, as well as the image for that Synod. What do you see?
We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen.
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