*** DEBUG END ***

Book review: Listening Together: Meditations on synodality by Timothy Radlcliffe

28 June 2024

Martin Warner reads reflections from last year’s synodal gathering

NO ONE has ever said to me that they know Timothy Radcliffe slightly. He has a gift for communicating personal friendship, be it through his books or if you meet him just even briefly. He makes holiness feel possible for ordinary people, and even for bishops.

Radcliffe’s talks at the Synod of Bishops in Rome last October have now been published as Listening Together: Meditations on synodality. That synod was part of a listening process in the Roman Catholic Church which began in October 2021 and will culminate in a second gathering in Rome this October.

Radcliffe calmly states that this was “the greatest exercise of listening in the history of humanity”. That’s a big claim. It implies that this gathering was different from other Councils in the Church’s history, such as Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, or even the two Vatican Councils in more recent times.

This synod invited bishops and laity to be in a different synodal mode: listening to each other first, listening a second time to test what you think you heard, and only then daring to speak again. This was unfamiliar to many participants, and radically different from the Church of England’s General Synod. The participants were sent into retreat, three days of prayer, silence and getting to know each other at meal times, in order to learn how to do this synodal listening.

That retreat was an opportunity to be like the child Samuel in the Temple, close to the mystery of the presence of God. Radcliffe’s addresses encourage a willingness to let God speak, through the holy scriptures, through the Church’s worship, and through each other, and to say in response: “Your servant is listening.”

In the six retreat talks, and three from the synod itself, Radcliffe immerses us in the scriptures, especially the gospels, in order to understand what it might be like to walk with Jesus. This immersion prepares us for difficulty and misunderstanding, reminding us of our limitations, of God’s patience, and of the transforming power of God’s beauty.

An additional document, drawn from Dominican life, gives us a clue to why Radcliffe makes holiness feel possible. It is because he speaks from his experience of Jesus Christ in other people, especially those who suffer at the margins of power. They teach us the delight of faith in God, inviting us to listen together as the Church takes shape in us.

Dr Martin Warner is the Bishop of Chichester.

Listening Together: Meditations on synodality
Timothy Radcliffe
Liturgical Press £11.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.79

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)