On 5th August, Pope Francis set the Church a new challenge:
And so we can ask ourselves: today, in what way can we help heal our world? As disciples of the Lord Jesus, who is the physician of our souls and bodies, we are called to continue “His work, work of healing and salvation” (CCC, 1421) in a physical, social and spiritual sense…Pope Francis, General Audience, 5th August, 2020
In the next few weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing questions that the pandemic has brought to the fore, social ills above all. And we will do it in the light of the Gospel, of the theological virtues and of the principles of the Church’s social doctrine. We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious illnesses. It is my desire that everyone reflect and work together, as followers of Jesus who heals, to construct a better world, full of hope for future generations (see Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, 24, November 2013, no. 183). Thank you.
You can find out more about Pope Francis’ Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the amazing work going on here http://www.humandevelopment.va/en/vatican-covid-19.html
Pope Francis’s Catechesis on the Pandemic has been gathered into one place with questions for group or personal reflection and can be downloaded here.
Starting on the 21st September, our diocese will respond to this challenge with a set of free webinars. Tackling subjects such as outreach, spirituality and mission, the sessions will help us reflect on our priorities going forward.
21st Sep The Post-Lockdown Church – Bishop David Oakley
Video coming soon
Bishop David’s questions:
1. Do you think that the current pandemic is highlighting existing problems in the Church or pointing us towards something new?
2. Do you see the pandemic as threat or opportunity?
3. Do you think you are able to name one thing you have learnt from this evening’s talk?
Some of the references mentioned by Bishop David:
Here is the Instruction from the Congregation of Clergy on The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church which Bishop David quoted from.
Information about the new Directory for Catechesis can be found here.
Fr James Mallon’s book, Divine Renovation, which Bishop David quoted from, became an international organisation. More details about that and the book here. Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, Divine Renovation UK Executive Director, will be speaking on Community in week 4.
St Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life can be found online as a pdf here.
Also mentioned that evening:
Jean Johnson alerted us to the Middlesbrough Diocese Mass phone line: 01642 130120. This is to enable those without access to the internet to be able to hear Mass over the phone. You can ring at any time and it starts automatically.
28th Sep Mission in a digital age – Brendan Thompson, CEO of Catholic Voices
Find out more about Catholic Voices here, including their training courses and parish workshops: https://www.catholicvoices.org.uk
Read the brand new Catholic Voices report into how Catholics in the UK responded to Coronavirus, including: what were people feeling and doing during lockdown; how active were parishes, and what sort of thing did clergy find themselves doing; what did Catholics think of online worship; and will they go back to real life services?
Brenden mentioned the Netflix documentary-series Social Dilemma to get an insight into how social media impacts people’s lives.
He also recommended Richard Seymour’s book The Twittering Machine
5th October Making it real: a parish for the poor – Professor Francis Davis, University of Birmingham
Francis committed to work for justice when he heard Pope John Paull II speak in Britain as a teenager, and having watched Jewish and Muslim friends poorly treated at school. He is the founder , award winning co founder or inventor of 40 social enterprises ; former Cabinet level and ministerial advisor under three governments . He holds professorships at Birmingham and Oxford and has held one at St Mary’s, Twickenham. He has lived, since the age of 6, in Portsmouth Diocese where he has been a Diocesan trustee , PPC member , Eucharistic Minister , youth leader, HCPT fundraiser, reader , jumble sale volunteer and helped initiate the clergy pension fund , and Caritas on the island of Jersey. He is the perfect person to help us start to answer Pope Francis’ challenge.
Francis’ talk was so packed with ideas and resources that I’ve made a whole separate page as a permanent resource which can be found here: http://formationpathways.co.uk/making-it-real-a-parish-for-the-poor/
12th October Building Community in the post-lockdown Church – Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, Divine Renovation UK Executive Director.
The Divine Renovation movement came from a book written by Fr James Mallon, based on his experiences of transforming a church in Toronto. The DR organisation has a lot of expertise in enabling churches to become outward looking, welcoming communities, nurturing missionary disciples. You can find out about it here, together with a series of helpful Parish Conversations videos on useful topics. The global DR organisation also offers talks: including building teams and radical hospitality online.
Hannah talks in detail about the power of personal transformation which in turn transforms a whole community. She speaks of programmes such as Alpha and Sycamore which have had transformational effects on parishes. She also mentions Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples and the Life in the Spirit CaFE course.
She also speaks of intentional efforts by parishes to build community:
During lockdown: through WhatsApp groups, weekly or even daily children’s liturgy, zoom coffee (one parish even did this every day for those feeling lonely or isolated), and blind dates, where people in the after Mass coffee session were dropped into random groups and got to know new parishioners. Where parishes were active, new people came forward to get involved.
Communication – we can use this time to refresh lists of parishioners and websites. How many of our parish websites still say “church closed” or have the old Mass times on? Do our websites answer the questions people have, for example, when services are on, when children’s ministry is available, where can I park? Hannah mentioned Church Suite which makes parish contacts available on a phone app for parish priests and approved others to access when they’re out and about.
Connecting with people who have lost the habit of Sunday Mass attendance: this will need a lot of thought from parishes. What are the opportunities for connecting with these people? What can we invite them to? Do our parishes have an invitational culture – will there be a great welcome?
Connecting with non-Catholics accessing our online liturgies: do we have non-Catholics in mind when live-streaming Mass? How do we move people from being online viewers to church attenders? We need (online) groups for people to come along to to make those connections. The Relit course is fantastic for helping people to be confident in talking about their faith.
No return to business as usual: as Bishop David says, the Church *as* a new reality. What old systems can we clear out? What new opportunities exist? Where are the needs in our local communities? (See week 3)
19th October The God who Speaks in all seasons – Fleur Dorrell, Director of the God Who Speaks Campaign, Bishops’ Conference
Fleur Dorrell is the director of the Catholic Bishops’ God Who Speaks campaign, which seeks to help Catholics engage with Scripture anew. She will be sharing stories about the different ways that people prayed with Scripture during lockdown and will give us inspiration for the months to come. The giver of the 2019 NORES lecture, Fleur has spoken to many diverse audiences up and down the country, including preaching in Parliament. Find more information about God Who Speaks and a lot of excellent resources on their website.
Fleur’s favourite book of the Old Testament is Tobit, which you can read here. Pope Benedict’s beautiful Exhortation, Verbum Domini, on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, is a fantastic read. She also mentioned the Christ, Covid and Community Facebook group where our own Judy Buchanan’s beautiful drawings appear each day.
How to help someone get started with Scripture? Start small, with a single story or character. Or choose a theme and follow it through – there are some great guides on the God Who Speaks website. Pray As You Go, has 15 minute reflections for the daily readings each day. Lamentations and Job are particularly appropriate for our current situation. If you enjoy art, you might like to try Visio Divina, an image-based version of Lectio Divine, or the Christian Art daily email.
Parish Bible reading groups – Fleur says start with building the group, getting to know one another, especially if you’re starting a new group. What would the group like to do? A good starting point could be exploring what the Bible has to say about living with fear and anxiety. There are some excellent group resources on the God Who Speaks site.
For Advent and Christmas, order a free (donations welcome) Jesse Tree and spend Advent revisiting Jesus’ ancestors. More Advent resources will become available over the coming weeks. Looking ahead to Mark’s Gospel starting in Advent, download a wonderful “Whistlestop tour” poster giving you the main features of the Gospel to look out for through our Sunday readings.
26th October Catechetics: adjusting to the new reality – Veronica Murphy, Coordinator for Adult Faith Formation, Archdiocese of Liverpool, and Alex Heath, NORES
One of the key questions for parishes as we opened up after lockdown was what to do about the hundreds of children around the who were waiting for the sacraments, and the programmes which would have been starting in the autumn. However, besides these very practical questions, there are deeper underlying thoughts. Is the pandemic, as in so many other areas, an opportunity to rethink our catechetical programmes and sacramental preparation from the ground up? What should be our response to the new Directory for Catechesis? Veronica Murphy has many years of experience in catechetics in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, and Alex Heath, our own catechetical advisor, will be sharing the diocesan vision for catechesis.
2nd November “Dig deeper little bird”: holding on to joy in troubling times – David Wells
David Wells is a remarkable and gifted speaker. Whether with 10,000 people at the RE Congress in Los Angeles, or 12 people in a musty parish hall, he always leaves his audience inspired and uplifted. He is funny, down to earth and profound. For a taster, see these 10 minute videos David originally produced to help Catholic teachers start this school year, but which are appropriate for everyone.
9th November Thinking ahead: next steps for the post-lockdown Church – Fr Matthew Nunes, Moderator of the Liverpool Synod, Episcopal Vicar for Formation
Fr Matthew Nunes is the Episcopal Vicar for Formation in the Archdiocese of Liverpool. The challenges of being asked to serve multiple parishes sparked his interest in change management, facilitation and team work as a way of responding positively to changing parish realities. He has a passion for fell running which, as well as being an effective way of blowing away the cobwebs, feeds an appreciation for the beauty and fragility of God’s creation. As one of the Moderators of the Archdiocesan Synod, Fr Matthew has a unique view of the challenges facing our parishes at this time, and some of the ideas that are arising to meet these challenges.
This page will host the videos and resources from the talks for parishes to use in their own time.
For more resources in this area, including talks by other speakers, technical help for parishes, and running prayer groups online, see http://formationpathways.co.uk/postlockdownparish/