Since the beginning of July, Pastoral Areas have been gathering to reflect prayerfully on their future. Hundreds of people have been involved in sharing ideas, wisdom and enthusiasm, and new projects are already taking off. To follow up the new leadership roles, Mandated Ministry working parties have been asked to produce a plan for the new leadership roles in their area to be presented to Bishop Peter at Thornton College on 28th March.
Key themes from across the Pastoral Areas included:
- Communication (people couldn’t believe that they had never heard of the fantastic things were happening at the next door church)
- Reaching out to new people – whether in new housing, or in remote village communities
- Adult formation, for all types of groups
- Renewing Parish Councils
Some key projects that are already in development include:
- A new welcoming workshop
- Developing Pastoral Area websites to be one-stop-shops for local information and events
- A youth strategy day, bringing together all the local stakeholders to think about the future.
- An advent leaflet to be given out through the churches and schools, showing all the services and special events across one Pastoral Area.
- For a parish with lots of village communities, developing prayer groups for each of the villages.
The networking that has happened through the reflection days has led to people being able to draw on others for expertise, including in running youth groups, setting up new music groups, help with social media, planning a school holiday lunch club and many others.
Over the past year, the diocese has been consulting on the best way forward for our parishes. We know that our priests are really stretched, and in other parts of the world, lay people play a much greater role. Parishes without resident priests rely heavily on lay people to act informally as leaders, making sure the churches run from week to week. Bishop Peter announced at the gathering of Pastoral Area Councils in March 2019 that we would be consulting on more formal models of lay leadership for parishes, with a training programme, diocesan authorisation, and ongoing support.
At the same time, Pope Francis is asking us to be more outward looking, more missionary in our approach. We are to be a ‘field hospital’ in a broken world. However, it has been hard for us to think about evangelisation when we are dealing with changing structures and an uncertain future.
Therefore, each of the Pastoral Area Councils has been asked to run a local Reflection Day. This day has two purposes:
- To reflect prayerfully on the needs of our local communities, and to develop some concrete proposals to meet these needs.
- To reflect on where these new roles could help us to be more outward looking by providing local leadership and energy.
- The Pastoral Area of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (Northampton North and East) held their day on 6th July. Here are some of the participants talking about the experience:
Many other Pastoral Areas are holding their days in the Autumn, while Pastoral Areas where there have been significant changes of clergy will organise theirs in due course:
- 14th September: Venerable Mary Ward PA (Chiltern)
- 14th September: St Peter PA (Slough)
- 21st September: St Joseph PA (Bedford)
- 12th October: St John Fisher PA (Aylesbury)
- 12th October: St Alban PA (Luton)
- 26th November: St Thomas of Canterbury PA
(Northampton South and West)
- 2nd November: St Monica (South Bucks)
- 16th November: St Paul (Milton Keynes)
- 8th February: St Francis Assisi (Mid Bedfordshire)
There will be reports of the outcomes of these days going back to the parishes. We hope that the days will generate exciting new ideas and projects for the local areas, as well as giving the opportunity for reflection on new forms of lay leadership for our communities.
Each Pastoral Area is asked to write a Mission Plan, including their ideas for these new roles which will go to Bishop Peter. All Pastoral Area Councils are asked to gather with the Bishop at Thornton College on 28th March 2020 to share stories and reflection on next steps.
For more information about this process, contact Avril Baigent at the Pastoral Ministry Office: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07823 788 310.