Stewards of the Gospel

Vision Document Shaping the Future – published 2nd December 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21-06-18 

Last night parishioners and Father Tom met together to discuss the next steps in our parish Renewal and Restructuring process. About 50 people came along and below is a summary of the meeting:

1. Bishop Alan and the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group have read the feedback we sent them regarding the document
   “Working Together to Evangelise our Diocese”. (Their response to our feedback is below.)
   The Bishop says in his letter that his final decisions regarding changes in the diocese will be published in November, and these will begin to take place during 2019.
   He thanks parishioners for their participation in the discernment process and asks for their continued support.
 
2. The document “Working Together to Evangelise our Diocese” is about both Renewal and Restructuring in equal parts.
    We have to look at Renewal in our own parish, which we have already started. 
    In order to support Father Tom in assimilating the changes to our parish which will be happening next year, we will Renew and Refresh our Parish Forum. 
 
3. James Johnson talked about what the renewed Forum will look like. It will have 12 members made up from existing groups in the parish and meet 4 times a year. 
   Parishioners are invited to nominate 3 members of the parish to sit on the Forum. Nomination forms will be available in Church from 30th June
   when details will appear in the newsletter. Father Tom has appointed James as Chairperson of the Forum.
 
4. Father Tom spoke about the things we need to do towards Renewal in our parish- help with RCIA, Baptism and Marriage preparation groups, outreach and charities.

Below you will find the response from the diocese to our parish feedback on ‘Working Together to Evangelise our Diocese’

Dear Steward,

Bishop Alan and his Diocesan Strategic Planning Group have read and discussed the feedback from each parish. This is the letter referred to in Bishop Alan’s letter and I am writing it on behalf of the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group following that process. The intention is that you should share it and discuss it with your parish priest before sharing the content with your fellow parishioners as you deem appropriate for your parish. For our part we will be making the first part of this letter available on the Diocesan Website from June 15th.

The main part of the letter tackles some issues that are repeated by several parishes and the last part covers the issues that seem relevant to your particular parish. This is one step in our discernment process and as Bishop Alan said in his recent video message, we are in a good discernment process where we are listening to each other, praying together and working together. We remain confident that as people of goodwill do these things together we can find the appropriate response to God’s love for us in our second century as a diocese.

My starting point must be to say “Thank You”. I am very grateful to everyone who has participated so far. The vast majority of responses have been very positive, thoughtful, prayerful, constructive and encouraging. One parish echoed the views of many when it wrote “I’m truly amazed how much has been achieved so far”. So are we and it is our prayer that we can all build on that brilliant start as we work together.

Turning firstly to the issues that occur repeatedly I make the following observations.

A) ENTHUSIASM AND JOY
The clear enthusiasm and joy for the Renewal aspects of this work is incredibly heartening. So many parishes have already set about the task of evangelising our diocese and that is really wonderful. Please continue this work.
Restructuring may provide us with a sound base to do this work but it is through this Renewal that together we will support one another and bring others to Christ. It is through this work and prayer that we see improvements in our response to God’s love for us; more vocations, more young people coming to Christ and more evangelisation in our diocese. Parishes right across our diocese are picking up new initiatives and putting them into practice through prayer. Bible study groups, evangelisation cells, Alpha courses, outreach activities, caritas initiatives, prayer groups, people asking questions and exploring new ideas, social activity both in and across parish boundaries bringing people closer together, groups of people working together across parish and deanery boundaries to work and pray together.

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All around us people are responding to the need for renewal in amazing ways and looking back over the last year or so it is clear that we have already achieved a great deal. As a Church community we are becoming more active, more dynamic and more attractive. As we continue to build on this brilliant start we will find ever more ways of doing even more because more people will want to be involved. It will move beyond the people who have always been involved to include many new people with ideas to renew our church.

  1. B)  RE-IMAGINING HOW WE WORK TOGETHER
    Many of you have begun the task of re-imagining how priests and people can work together in the future. This recognises the need to look after one another as well as working for the Kingdom. People have started to explore how certain tasks can be done by people other than priests and although this will take time to roll out, the work has already begun and there are many positive signs that we can all build on in the future. None of this will happen immediately and it may well take different shapes in different places, like many things it will evolve as we work together in new ways.
  2. C)  CONCERNS AND UNCERTAINTY ABOUT CHANGE
    Alongside the enthusiasm for renewal there is quite understandably still some reluctance to accept the reality that we shall face together after we restructure. People often express a recognition of a need to change, but hope that the changes can pass them by. They see that we will have fewer priests but hope that we can manage to keep everything much as it was. Frequently people who express these things also freely express their concern that their parish priest will be overburdened if the changes go ahead. This genuinely held concern does, of course, fail to take into account that if no share of the burden is borne by their parish, then a greater share of the burden will be borne by other parishes. The task facing Bishop Alan will be to restructure our diocese, balancing the share of the burden borne by each of us. This means that all of us must look across our existing parish boundaries and beyond the ways we currently work so as to find the best and fairest response to God’s love for us in our diocese. Everyone everywhere will experience changes in the future. This is our common task for the common good and we must all work together for a future that will be different. Of course, “different” does not mean “worse” or “better”. What different means for us all will depend on how well we work together for our common good.
  3. D)  MASS TIMES
    People have begun to think about the fact that Mass times will need to change and the number of Masses will need to be reduced if our clergy are to have good balanced lives. This is important not just for our existing priests but also for when Bishop Alan presents a vision of our diocese to our prospective seminarians. They will need to know that we are working together on their behalf in order to ensure that they will have a good priest’s life. Not a life of toil and exhaustion but rather one of prayer, joy and pastoral care that allows them to “celebrate” with us.
  4. E)  POPULATION GROWTH

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There is a great deal written in the feedback about how the number of Catholic families is going to increase and the number of those coming to Mass is therefore going to increase beyond the capacity of our ability to seat them in church and minister to them.
While we very much hope and pray that we are wrong about this, we do not believe that to be a realistic concern. In summary, we believe that additional homes and increased overall population will most likely result in maintenance of the numbers that we have now.

This is despite the fact that it is harder to find somewhere in our diocese that is NOT experiencing housing development and population growth than somewhere that is. Historically the Catholic population has averaged about 8% of the overall population but in our diocese the historical average masks extreme variations. Trends of religious practice would lead us to believe that in the short and medium term (as described in the First Formal Proposal) we are likely to see the average decline and we are also seeing a change in the pattern of Mass attendance from the faithful. If anything we would expect to see a slight decline in Mass attendance over this timeframe. This reinforces the fact that it is our task to evangelise and bring people to faith. As and when we find that our churches are full and overflowing, we will all celebrate together and reconsider how we tackle the wonderful challenges that will bring.

We do not believe that excessive numbers of Catholics are likely in the medium term but if it comes to pass we will have monitored it and the plans will be as flexible as we can make them in order to cope with it. It should perhaps be noted with a sense of optimism that if our Mass attendance exceeds expectations then there will be far more lay people able to help in the mission of the Church.

It is also notable that unless other trends change quite significantly an increase of population will not (of itself) lead to an increase in vocations. That is an issue that we must all continue to pray for and work towards quite independently of the population issue. It will be through renewal rather than force of numbers that we will increase vocations.

F) DIVERSITY OF PEOPLE AND PLACES
Our diocese is very diverse. That is one of its strengths and it also provides us with challenges. Together the lay faithful across our diocese bring a richness of gifts and voices that we should pause for a moment to value; and then go on to celebrate.
It has been interesting for us to read that “the challenges facing rural parishes are more significant than for urban parishes” alongside “the challenges facing urban parishes are far more significant than for rural parishes”. Putting a value on the challenges each of us face is not possible (I’m sure someone could have a go but let’s not!). It is a natural tendency to see our own challenges as the most significant ones to be overcome (I know; I’ve said it too). The simple fact is that we must all face our particular challenges where we find them and we want to assure people that everyone involved in this process is trying to understand and relate to the challenges brought to our attention and to those we know about already.

However, and this is important; when a few people write that “those people in Brentwood don’t know anything about……” I can assure them that they are wrong. Bishop Alan, the DSPG members and I are “those people in Brentwood” and we have a combined knowledge

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and experience of living and working across a wide variety of places in our Diocese. We have all travelled and worked extensively around our diocese over many years. We have consulted many people across our diocese and we have heard the voices of all who wanted to share their thoughts with us. We would hope and pray that no one and no place is being taken for granted. We are praying and working hard to find solutions that will enable us to fulfil our Vision and our Objectives as set out in the First Formal Proposal and we are trying to do that with everyone and every place in mind.

We know that rural parish churches are separated by more miles than urban parishes and we know that in urban areas travelling short distances by car can take as long as much longer journeys in the country.
We know that village communities tend to be long established and close knit and have stronger ecumenical links than urban parishes and that urban parishes often have more transient populations where a diverse mix of people come together and disperse again. We know that rural areas tend to have an older demographic than urban areas and we know that in urban areas we have more of our schools and young people.

We also know that what we all share in common is far more significant than that which makes us different. Our common faith and our belonging to our universal church are far more important. Seeing the face of God in everyone from a rural or an urban place (and everywhere in between) gives us a common understanding of the respect and value that must be afforded to everyone equally. “Those people in Brentwood” try to never lose sight of that.

G) TECHNOLOGY
We have committed to using technology better in order to serve our diocese better. This will evolve over time but there are clearly some simple things that can be done and some things that people are asking for that cannot yet be done. I think it is important for us to be clear about these things from now on.
Firstly, and most importantly; attendance at Holy Mass cannot be virtual.
The rules are complicated but in essence we are required to be present and to participate in the Holy Mass. That cannot be done remotely. We have been interested by the suggestion that Mass celebrated in one church could be linked to a congregation sitting in another church but at the moment that is not permissible either. Non-Eucharistic services can be transmitted and celebrations can be shared but not Holy Mass if it is to meet our obligations. Technology can help in many other ways that are really quite simple. We all know that journey times are increasing as our roads reach capacity. Wasted time sitting in traffic is one of the banes of our modern society. All of us can recognise this and make more and better use of phone and video calls, groups on social media etc.
This will never fully substitute for face-to-face meetings but it can save time and make communication better. It is often far better to have frequent short virtual exchanges than wait weeks for a long meeting when you can meet face to face.
Priests spend a lot of time travelling already. Visiting the sick alone can account for substantial amounts of time. We may need to face the reality that this use of time is a luxury that we need to manage more carefully. A busy priest can have more conversations with more people and more often sitting in his study than he can being out on the road. This may

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be unsatisfactory in some people’s opinion but I am afraid that we have got to make adjustments like this, and in time and with practice we might find that a more relaxed priest who is not stressed about getting through traffic to his next appointment might actually be better able to minister to his flock either by them visiting him or on a virtual link.
Necessity is often the mother of invention and I firmly believe that we can and will find new ways to use existing technology and the technology yet to come.
Apps are being trialled that will provide people with real time information on where the nearest/ closest in time Mass is being celebrated. Parish websites that contain good real- time information can be a better source of information for some people and save time as well.
People who know each other from church can communicate via social media and email and telephone very effectively.
We have already started the Bishop’s Certificate in Catechesis that is being done online and if that proves to be the success we hope it will then we see no reason why similar programmes cannot be created for different audiences. Again this sort of thing can be supplemented by online communication between participants.
We have also been taken with the idea of a Virtual Mission: central resources available for use in parish/ local community of parishes bringing people together in prayer and worship but remaining in situ in their own locality. Adele and her team have recently taken part in such an exercise in Brentwood that was screened around the world.
Subject to what the law allows we should embrace these things and even turn them into opportunities to evangelise. I frequently hear that “not everyone has a computer or a smart phone and many old people don’t use them”. Leaving aside for the moment that my experience of older people is very different from that, let’s assume it is true.
This provides us with a wonderful opportunity for evangelisation. More tech savvy parishioners helping less tech savvy parishioners to use smart phones, computers, tablets so as to reduce isolation, integrate parishioners who are unable to travel and enable them to access the already vast array of high quality online Catholic materials. Those parishioners might then feel better disposed to the idea of a Skype or FaceTime call with Father rather than having him trek miles across town or country; and other parishioners might “virtually visit” them as well. The result? Less loneliness, more access to faith-based materials and more involvement in their parish achieved by using technology with the aid of fellow parishioners they may not previously have known.

The other thing I hear is that not everyone can afford the technology. Well, we can solve that together. When we upgrade our phones or tablets or computers we could help someone else. We could even have a group of volunteers to help with it. 21st Century evangelisation based on two thousand years of tradition of looking out for one another.

H) COLLABORATION
As we strive to work better together I see that some people have (perhaps in their enthusiasm) got a bit carried away. There is sometimes a misunderstanding about the idea of collaborative ministry and how it can work in our sacramental church. It is reflected in several comments made in feedback documents. I offer the following for reflection.

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Collaboration means working with someone. It does not mean working in substitution for someone. In our context collaboration means lay people working with and in support of a priest; it does not mean lay people doing things that only a priest can do.
This is relevant to many areas of life in our sacramental church. Priests are called to the sacrament of Holy Orders. There are things that only a person in Holy Orders can be or do. A lay person cannot be a substitute.

That said, there are very many ways that a lay person can work with and support a priest in areas of work that are not reserved for those in Holy Orders. We can and must maximise how lay people work with our priests in this way. This is collaboration.
In particular, we would like to clarify one area where we believe there may be some misunderstanding, namely; that a Service of the Word with Communion distributed from the reserved sacrament is not equal to a Holy Mass and attending such a service cannot be substituted for attending Holy Mass.

  1. I)  DIVERSITY OF CLERGY
    During the process we have all become more aware of the different types of clergy we have serving our diocese. We are blessed to have them all in Brentwood Diocese. The challenge of accommodating the needs and obligations of different parishes when those parishes are served by a mixture of secular diocesan priests, priests belonging to (various different) religious orders and priests of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, is not without difficulties, but they are difficulties we are very pleased to have and ones that people of goodwill working together in prayer can overcome. We will overcome them together. Sometimes accommodations will need to be made by all of us in order for people who live and worship side by side to work together.
  2. J)  WOMEN AND MARIED MEN AS PRIESTS
    A frequent request is made for women and married men to be permitted to become priests. The simple fact is that as far as we know there is no likelihood of either of these things happening. They are beyond our control and regardless of whether people think it may or may not be something that is desirable, it is simply not something we can do and there the matter ends. We will not be factoring in the possibility of women or married men becoming priests.
  3. K)  PRIESTS FROM ABROAD
    Several mentions are made of the possibility of importing priests from other countries and sometimes this is supported by a story about how a priest in part of the western world has brought in priests from eastern Europe or the southern hemisphere. We will continue our previous policy of accepting priests from abroad when they are offered to us, have the requisite entry permissions into the UK, safeguarding clearance and are considered suitable by Bishop Alan for ministry in our diocese. This has proved very successful in the past and we hope and pray that it will continue to be so. Religious orders and foreign dioceses sometimes offer priests for reasons that are mutually beneficial and we are continuing to explore these possibilities.
    However, we will not be undertaking a more widespread search for priests from abroad for two main reasons:

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Firstly, it is highly questionable whether it is ethically right to do it. Our diocese, in common with most of western Europe still has a better ratio of priests to people than most parts of the world and it seems to us to be wrong to adopt a policy of depriving other Catholics of priests that they have trained because we do not have as many as we used to have. Secondly, we cannot adopt a policy that could detract from the urgency of us finding men to answer God’s call from within our own diocese. Bringing in priests from abroad cannot replace our own responsibility in this regard.

L) DISCERNMENT
I occasionally hear that some people still think that the whole discernment process is a sham and all decisions were made before this process started. All I can say is that it is not and they were not. Indeed, final decisions have not yet been made. When they are it will be clear that the proposals made have evolved as a result of the discernment process that we are undertaking together.

M) RENEWALWITHRESTRUCTURING
Some people tell us that they think the process is really only about Restructuring. This is not the case. I think that if this were true we could rightly be accused of merely managing decline and I do not believe that is what we are about.
What we are about is finding the right response to God’s love for us in 21st century Diocese of Brentwood. The world around us is changing and changing fast. We would be foolish not to catch up with the changes around us and to prepare for that changed world. It is this world that we are aiming to evangelise.
The work of Renewal is about us finding ways to evangelise Essex and East London in this ever-changing scenario. In doing that work we will bring more people into a relationship with Christ and His Church. Through that we hope and pray that souls will be saved. However, in finding the right response we must look to the resources we have at our disposal and the work of Restructuring will help us to use our resources as well as we can in service of our Vision. Restructuring recognises that a part of the changing scenario will be fewer priests. I hope that we will be able to find a way for those priests to serve to the best of their ability in a restructured environment that also cares for them.

Turning to the issues specific to your parish I would add the following:

We note that there were many very positive and encouraging comments about the proposals from your parish and we are grateful for that. It is interesting that there are two points highlighted in your feedback that may impact upon each other. You mention that no one has commented on your concerns about the state of repair of your buildings and also that sharing and delegating roles that have traditionally been the preserve of the clergy may not always be easy. The Finance Board has in fact been discussing proposals relating to your properties for some time and information has been fed back to your parish and so perhaps that encapsulates a part of the challenge we must face together. People of goodwill working well together and finding new ways for laity to collaborate with clergy will in due course lead to positive things but we will have to look after one another during the transition.

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As we have been going through the feedback it has become increasingly apparent to me that not everyone is going to get exactly what they want. Despite that, I want to assure you that you have been heard and listened to by Bishop Alan and his DSPG, and we hope that you will engage with us as we move forward working together to evangelise our diocese. Bishop Alan continues to entrust the future of our Diocese to Our Lady of Lourdes and continues to pray for you and everyone in your parish. Please continue to pray for him as he makes decisions about our shared future.

At Walsingham on 26th May Bishop Alan commissioned our Stewards of the Gospel for two more years. We have been impressed to see the way the Stewards have grown and worked together over the last two years and their service to our Diocese is not to be underestimated. They will play a vital role as we come to the end of the beginning of this exercise and move towards our Vision as we go forward together.

I must also say a few final words about our clergy. Times of change and uncertainty cause disquiet for our priests just as much as for all the lay faithful. I am grateful for the many constructive conversations I have had with our priests over the last year. I see an overall willingness to work to achieve the best change that we can but recognise that it is tinged with anxiety about what that changed future may look like. We pray for them regularly and ask that you join your prayers with ours as we seek to support our priests in a new future.

It is worth noting here that in our diocese we are blessed with a diversity of priests. This is not just diversity based on their individual gifts but also based on whether they are secular or religious, Ordinariate or priests from other dioceses. Each brings a richness to our diversity and our worship and we are very grateful to all who serve our diocese as priest.

Over the summer and Autumn Bishop Alan, his DSPG and I will be working together to produce a Vision for the future of our Diocese. This will bring together all our prayers and all our ideas and our work together and I think that you will see how both have helped to move us from the First Formal Proposal to the final document. In November we will publish that Vision Document and then we will gradually begin to implement it. During this time please pray for us as we pray for you and please keep doing all of the great work of renewal and evangelisation that you have started.

“I’m truly amazed how much has been achieved so far” so just imagine what we can go on to achieve together with the help of God.

Kind Regards

Steven Webb

Steven Webb

Director of Development
For and on behalf of the DSPG

Our Lady of Lourdes … Pray for us
St Edmund of Canterbury.. Pray for us

June 2018

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St Cedd.. Pray for us

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Please see below the feedback from our parish on the document ‘Working Together to Evangelise our Diocese’ which was sent to the Bishop and the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group on 29th March following presentations at masses, the parish meeting and  comments posted by parishioners at the back of the church.

St Edward the Confessor, Romford

Parish Feedback to the document ‘Working Together to Evangelise our Diocese’

The diocesan document was presented to parishioners in a PowerPoint presentation at all masses on the weekend of 27th January. The previous weekend at all masses, we watched the Bishop’s address on DVD. A parish meeting was held to discuss the document on 4th February, and about 60 parishioners attended. Parishioners were invited to respond to the document in writing and post these comments in a box at the back of the church. There was a very large response.

 

Parishioners felt that our own linked parishes are too many- and that five churches will be too large a workload for just two priests, when other local parishes are linked with fewer churches and also have two priests. It was suggested that St. Edwards Romford should link only with Collier Row, who both have their own parish schools, and that Gidea Park should link with Harold Hill because children from the Gidea Park parish are in the catchment area for St. Ursula’s primary school in Harold Hill. That would restrict the sizes of newly linked parishes, making them more manageable, as well as making it easier for parishioners to meet and get to know one another and create a new identity.

 

There are concerns about the health of our parish priest, Fr. Tom Jordan, and the volume of work which will be required to move the process forward.

 

The very poor state of repair of our parish buildings has been a major concern to parishioners and is now even more so. This was highlighted in the first (A4) parish feedback to the diocese after the questionnaires, but there has been no acknowledgement or response to this which is disappointing. It will be difficult for our parish to move forward without viable buildings and this is now an urgent priority. Parishioners would like to know if the proposals will have an impact on any plans to develop the buildings and facilities here at St. Edward’s or at other churches in the grouping. Another concern based on past experiences is that any plans we make in the light of the future restructuring may be changed or stopped should a new priest be appointed at any time in the future.

 

It was felt that the Document calls for a greater input from parishioners in the life of the parish, but the concern is that parish priests may not be ready to share or delegate what has been traditionally their roles, and remains so under Canon Law. Volunteers are not always forthcoming, despite our best efforts over the last couple of years. The idea of ‘lay leaders’ was seen as a good thing but from where would they be recruited, bearing in mind the previous sentence and who would appoint them? Many feel that a business manager/Church Warden should be appointed to run linked parishes, leaving the parish priest free to lead the sacramental, spiritual and pastoral life of the parish. Since young people are a big focus in Renewal, it was felt that a paid Youth Leader should be responsible for this across linked churches.

 

 

There were many very positive and encouraging comments about the proposals as well as the concerns, for example, the opportunity to pool resources, both human and financial, offering the prospect to go further in our evangelising opportunities.

 

The main responses to the Document from our parish meeting are detailed below, followed by the written comments from the box at the back of the church.

 

Questions/issues raised at Parish meeting 4-2-18:

 

  • Questions about ‘Lay-Leaders’ and their recruitment:
    • Needs to be thought through as to what, how, where, when in our parish. Training will be available.
    • Not all answers are available now.
  • Current lack of volunteers:
    • No obvious answer.
  • Concerns about changes to number, location and times of Masses.
    • All will unfold in due course.
  • Perhaps we will have an inter-parish committee to make these decisions with the priests.
  • Concern about the size of our church or possible closure.
    • There are no current plans for closing our church.
  • Plan to sell ‘No.1’ site and use funds to enlarge our church and pastoral centre, inter-linked. ‘Historic Churches’ committee are on-board with this.
  • Concern about what could be built on site of ‘No.1’ and the Diocesan position re. selling-off land.
  • Need a parish committee to meet regularly with Fr. Tom to discuss the fabric plans and to ensure all parishioners are made aware of plans and have an input, perhaps through a larger parish meeting with Fr. Tom. Presently there is a lack of information to the parish about plans.
  • Better communication needs to take place, eg. Through a regular meeting of a Parish Council and/or a Buildings committee.
  • The priests will be responsible for Sacramental preparation and the laity will play a much greater role in other aspects of parish work and supporting the parish priest.
  • Levels of decision-making need to be established in parishes, across the Diocese as well as nationally.
  • An increase in the number of Deacons may be needed to help plug the gap.
  • Reps from Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle to speak to our Diocese and/or us about the pros and cons of new ways of working.
  • A re-education of the priests as well as the laity in the new ways of working needs to take place.
  • JJ spoke, pulling together the threads of a number of issues and questions raised, the essence being that we can’t look back but need to learn from our past experiences to inform the going forward. The role of the priest is Canonically laid down as having full responsibility for his parish under the auspices of the Diocese. Although his primary role is saving souls through the administration of the Sacraments and his preaching, he will have to find new ways of more fully delegating responsibilities for other tasks whilst retaining overall responsibility for the outcomes. The re-establishing of a formal Parish Council is paramount first step from which other groups can flow, to which other groups will be accountable and by which all parishioners can be kept more fully informed and consulted.

 

Comments from parishioners posted in the box at the back of the church:

 

About priests

To what extent do priests feel able to pass on responsibility for certain aspects of parish activity?

The most important activity for the priest is the Mass and Sacraments

 

The priest in position MUST be in good health in order to cope with this workload- important and urgent.

 

Why are there going to be extra priests serving at one church

 

Are the priests on board with this? Laity can’t seem to get a hearing so far! Laity could organise each parish but what about the bloke in charge? Will each parish be doing its own thing or will they all be based on a fixed model?(See C of E parishes)

 

Will we still have Father Tom or will it be shared and will we sometimes have another priest?

 

Will there still be a dedicated priest for each location? There should be as those in need will have further to travel causing further alienation to the vulnerable.

 

Would St. Edward’s not have an assistant priest to assist Father Tom in this restructuring agenda?

 

Why can’t priests marry? Surely this would solve the problem of lack of priests. What are the pope’s views?

 

2 priests to cover 5 parishes will be v difficult to manage.

 

Are there student priests as 2 parishes for one priest is too much hard work.

 

Will the old system of priests moving on still be the case every 10 years?

 

Will the priest from Gidea Park come to say Mass at St. Edward’s and vice versa?

 

Can we bring priests here from other places: Poland, India etc

 

 

 

Won’t priests be too exhausted to properly share Christ’s message?

Will they be effective and enthusiastic enough after lengthy undertakings?

 

I like the idea of parish groupings and 2 priests in our group.

 

There will be a lot of work for our priests.

 

Concerns re priest workloads.

 

Are we short of priests in training? – we need to pray for this as it is the main problem.

What will happen in the future when a priest is sick? Will one priest cover 3 parishes?

 

Have you looked at why people don’t want to be priests? May this be about lives of faith or our religion itself- should we try to aid these problems?

 

2 priests to cover Gidea Park, Collier Row, Romford and Harold Hill seems too few.

 

Will we get a new priest to take this forward?

 

There seems to be an imbalance of priests/ churches:

La Salette has 2 priests and will cover 2 churches

Upminster/ Hornchurch has 2 priests for 3 churches

Romford has 2 priests for 4 churches

 

Why is the smallest parish having 2 priests? The only way this would be possible is if the Romford parish building is expanded, yet this would take years for funding, so how will it work?

 

Lay Leaders/ volunteer helpers

How can we be sure lay leaders will be accepted by the congregation as they lead?  Will it lead to any conflict?

 

Will lay people be able to give sacraments ie last rites or for the sick?

 

We need to think about how we can get more volunteers and make them into social groups so that volunteers are the majority and not the minority. Our priests will need a lot of support as this is a lot to ask of them. The slides mention this will be done by 2035 but this should be done in a few years (max 10).

 

Hopeful that more people will come forward to help than the same volunteers doing everything.

 

Complex- need a better understanding of where lay people need to help.

More training for our leaders involving diversity of cultures.

 

Concerns re number of people who will actually volunteer. I am an attendee but not a good joiner-in! No mention of the role of deacons- surely something which should be developed.

 

Who decides who becomes a lay leader? A committee or the priest?

 

How can we attract people into training for leadership and management, especially the youth.

 

How much training will the Laity need?

 

How will lay people be chosen?

 

Who will train lay people? Is this the bishop or priests?

 

Will sacraments be celebrated by priests or lay people?

 

We struggle to get volunteers at the moment, eg our scouting group cannot persuade parents to help. So how do you propose to encourage people?

 

About Masses

 

Does this mean we will have just one Mass on Sundays?

 

Suggest Sunday evening Masses.

 

We have to get used to fewer Masses and more services of the Word/ Holy Communion.

 

How will it affect our Mass times?

We have always been instructed to be consistent in our own choices for Mass times and not choose a more convenient time for us at another parish.

 

Will every parish still have at least one Mass on Sunday every Sunday?

 

By changing the Mass times and locations to wider areas people within the diocese will be alienated if they cannot attend.

 

Is the intention to have a dedicated weekly mass at each church or would members of the congregation be expected to travel to a different church each week for mass?

St. Edward’s is already at capacity each week so how would this be managed?

 

I hope there will be afternoon or evening mass in the future please.

 

Will we have the same mass times?

 

Will there be at least one mass each weekend at St. Edward’s or Gidea Park?

 

What impact will the restructuring have on the number of masses at our church? If a reduction, what will the alternative worship sessions include?

 

What times will those mass changes be?

 

Changing mass times will put a strain on schools esp. covering first communions and confirmations

 

Will Sunday Masses rotate between the various churches?

 

Does it mean there will be fewer masses is our parish? A worry since the 3 masses we have now do not meet fully the big population of this parish.

 

Will parishioners be expected to attend mass in Gidea Park or Harold Hill? Will parishioners from those parishes have to attend here if there is no priest available at theirs?

 

Will there be more or fewer masses?

If the parish times change, will there be more or less morning and evening masses?

 

What would be mass times and how many masses?

 

If there are fewer masses at St. Eds each week how will we fit into the church?

 

Youth

Youth involvement vital- problems when they go to University.

 

If parishes are linked will the confirmation programme change? Ie back to age 14 in line with Gidea Park?

 

New youth groups should be linked to encourage a greater community/ Christ like spirit. More activities so no one loses interest.

 

Like the idea of youth group in churches as my children do not attend catholic schools.

 

In what ways will you make the youth involved in the parish?

 

Schools

 

Will it affect the school’s catchment areas? Will St. Edward’s catchment area be widened?

 

Do schools and youth services funded by the diocese encourage children to pursue a future in the Church?

 

How will this affect our schools?

 

Less personal- school forms- priests will not know all children. Will there be a team of lay people to support this? – very difficult situation.

 

I would like more information about how our education system/ link to the diocese will be affected. Our youth are our future.

 

Will the school catchment areas change as the parish structures change?

 

School applications- will the way these are dealt with change?

 

No mention of our catholic primaries and secondaries in the deanery becoming multi academy trusts.

 

Buildings

Hoping for plans to enlarge St. Edward’s church capacity and develop the Community Centre.

 

Are there plans to extend the church?

 

Often standing room only at St. Edward’s. How can limiting number of masses and locations ease this?

 

Our church may need to be more spacious to accommodate other church- goers.

 

Will the proposal have any impact on plans to develop the buildings and facilities here or at other churches in the groupings?

 

What will happen to the number one site? Will the Community Centre project still happen? Will the Hall be renovated?

 

If St. Edward’s is expanded, how will parking be addressed? How will we ensure that access is equitable to the disabled and those with transport problems?

 

What will happen to the presbyteries no longer occupied?

 

Could our schools provide parishioners with opportunities for services? Communion?

 

What’s happening with the community centre building?

 

What will the changes mean in terms of the planned changes to the community centre?

 

The buildings in our parish need updating NOW not in the distant future. If possible, parish funds need injection from other parishes.

 

Is it still worth giving to the building fund? Will we get the money back if it’s not needed (ie if our church is closed?)

 

 

Locations

How will marriages/ baptisms/ funerals be split evenly across all locations with limited resources?

 

Great idea re our deanery.

Makes sense to link Romford/ Collier Row with one priest, and Gidea Park/ Harold Hill parishes as they feed St. Ursula’s.

 

Are we going to remain in this location?

 

How will the merging of parishes be done smoothly? Will all members meet in one parish on certain occasions?

 

Miscellaneous

 

Will a business person be employed to run the parishes? This would enable the priest to focus on developing faith.

 

More involvement with other Christian churches and other faiths needed.

 

What does evangelise mean?

 

How is the hospital going to be served?

 

St Edward’s is a small church- will it be closed up?

 

Caritas is a global charity organisation of 100+ Charities so which ones would the youth be involved with?

 

We have Caritas in Mauritius- how can we come together?

 

Why by 2035? Far too long. Should be in the next 3-5 years.

 

Would be good to have a parish prayer/ prayer card to help all think about the challenges ahead- say it at every mass and every day.

 

There is a need for all the stakeholders to have frequent meetings to discuss the ways forward.

 

When will we join with Gidea Park?

 

Will there be more time for Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?

 

When will these changes take effect in our deanery?

 

St Edward’s is the first parish of Romford and should be protected above all others.

 

Lots of talk about the internet. What about those with no internet access?

 

It’s important to continually update the congregation as to progress. Also to emphasise the importance on the youth and parents on their role for the future of the church.

 

Generally positive proposals. We need to break with narrow silo based parishes dependent on a single priest with his own emphases. We need to think more ‘horizontally’ and think beyond sacraments.

-young people

-marriage

-prayer

-evangelise/ renewal etc etc

But also we need to avoid temptation to be ‘relevant’ so much that we sound ever more like the secular world. That won’t make disciples of Christ.

 

Is St Cedd’s in Goodmayes part of the Brentwood diocese? The priests there are also part of the La Salette missionaries.

 

How is Caritas different from Cafod? Apart from monetary contribution, how does one participate in their activities?

 

 

Concerned about losing our parish identity and community. How much support will be given by “us”- not good attendance at meetings.

 

Proposals or imposals!

 

2 priests serving 4 parishes would likely impact on the parish and people.

 

There are so many priests in Africa particularly Nigeria where there are up to 6 priests serving a parish. Can they not be tilized in our parishes? Or from other countries where there are more than enough. The Catholic church is one all over the world and priests should have opportunities in celebrating Mass in disadvantaged parishes.

 

Integration of choirs into St. Edward’s.

 

We should consider having a bible study within the week.

 

I studied youth work at university. How do I take part in this?

 

How are linked parishes going to work together?

 

Hopeful that people will be understanding open to the change. Excited about the changes taking place.

 

How are we going to help Caritas?

 

Need petitions for online prayer requests.

 

How and when will all of this take place and how will it affect our parish here in Romford?

 

Concerned about people without internet understanding what’s going on. Will all documents be available and accessible to those without internet?

 

When is the parish club reopening? The community has not been the same since it closed.

 

The tradesmen in the parish should get together and help- they could do a lot of good. Two mass collections and more fund raising by parish groups would help earn some money for the churches.

 

Integration in our parish is very important. More social activity would assist this.

 

**************

Caroline Dixon

Steward of the Gospel

St. Edward the Confessor, Romford

 

 

 

 

 

 

4th February 2018

Following the presentations at all masses last weekend (27th/28th January) about the renewal and restructuring of our diocese, about 60 parishioners gathered in the Community Centre this Sunday to discuss and respond to what they had heard. It was an informative and positive meeting. If you weren’t able to attend, please see the summary below.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ++++
‘Working Together to Evangelise our Diocese’ Parish Meeting 4.2.18
Meeting started: 10.45am
Number present: approx. 50-60  (The overwhelming majority being white, middle-aged and older.)
Chair: Caroline Dixon (CD)
Deputy Chair: Joan Murphy (JM)
Note-taker: James Johnson (JJ)
  • CD Opened the meeting with a welcome and outlined the format and purpose of the meeting.
  • CD gave an explanation of the next steps to the questions/responses from previous week. Also outlined:
    • More quickly than 2035.
    • Short/medium/long-term
    • Short-term to 2019: parish & inter-parish meetings. eg Collier Row mtg with SotG next Wednesday.
    • After agreement about proposals by and for our parishes, movement of priests starts 2019 up to 2023.
    • If don’t agree, we need to state reasons and make suggestions.
    • Long-term by 2035.
  • Many written questions submitted about the role and placement of priests. CD explained how the SotG had been meeting regularly in Brentwood with each other and priests. Obvious anxiety across the board.
  • ‘Renewing’ aspect is about spiritual renewal as well as the laity having a greater involvement in the running of parishes in a way not done before because of the increased workloads of the Parish Priests.

Questions/issues from the floor and responses from CD:

  • Questions about ‘Lay-Leaders’ and their recruitment:
    • Needs to be thought through as to what, how, where, when in our parish. Training will be available.
    • Not all answers are available now.
  • Current lack of volunteers:
    • No obvious answer.
  • Concerns about changes to number, location and times of Masses.
    • All will unfold in due course.
  • Perhaps we will have an inter-parish committee to make these decisions with the priests.
  • Concern about the size of our church or possible closure.
    • There are no current plans for closing our church.
  • Plan to sell ‘No.1’ site and use funds to enlarge our church and pastoral centre, inter-linked. ‘Historic Churches’ committee are on-board with this.
  • Concern about what could be built on site of ‘No.1’ and the Diocesan position re. selling-off land.
  • Need a parish committee to meet regularly with Fr. Tom to discuss the fabric plans and to ensure all parishioners are made aware of plans and have an input, perhaps through a larger parish meeting with Fr. Tom. Presently there is a lack of information to the parish about plans.
  • Better communication needs to take place, eg. Through a regular meeting of a Parish Council and/or a Buildings committee.
  • The priests will be responsible for Sacramental preparation and the laity will play a much greater role in other aspects of parish work and supporting the parish priest.
  • Levels of decision-making need to be established in parishes, across the Diocese as well as nationally.
  • An increase in the number of Deacons may be needed to help plug the gap.
  • Reps from Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle to speak to our Diocese and/or us about the pros and cons of new ways of working.
  • A re-education of the priests as well as the laity in the new ways of working needs to take place.
  • JJ spoke, pulling together the threads of a number of issues and questions raised, the essence being that we can’t look back but need to learn from our past experiences to inform the going forward. The role of the priest is Canonically laid down as having full responsibility for his parish under the auspices of the Diocese. Although his primary role is saving souls through the administration of the Sacraments and his preaching, he will have to find new ways of more fully delegating responsibilities for other tasks whilst retaining overall responsibility for the outcomes. The re-establishing of a formal Parish Council is paramount first step from which other groups can flow, to which other groups will be accountable and by which all parishioners can be kept more fully informed and consulted.
  • CD formally brought the meeting to a close at 11.30am

                                                 —————————————————————————–

 

 

 

 

 

 

 December 2017:The First Formal Proposal for the Renewal and Restructuring of Our Diocese is available on the diocesan websitehttp://www.dioceseofbrentwood.net/departments/development/

Please take time to read all of this document and to pray about it. We will be meeting together as a parish to discuss it early in the New Year.

 

The next important stage of the Stewards of the Gospel discernment process is upon us!

Important changes will be taking place now and over the next few years in our parish and diocese.

On Monday 7th August a document setting out in draft a vision and strategy to take our diocese forward will be published at

http://www.dioceseofbrentwood.net/news/

We will also be getting hard copies of the document to share and read so that we can pray about the contents and discuss them before responding to it.

We will hold an open parish meeting in September/ October time where the diocesan director for the Stewardship process, Steven Webb, will join us and respond to your questions. Watch this space and look out in the parish newsletter for the date of the meeting.

 

parish open day 

Currently we have around 35 different groups working within our parish and we would like to celebrate all the hard work they do and the part they play in making our community so rich and vibrant. To this end, we are holding a Parish Open Day on      Sunday 17th September. The event will take place in the parish hall, beginning after the 9.30 Mass, and continue through the day, finishing at 2pm. Come along on the day with family and friends. Refreshments will be served by our youth stewards.

~~~~~~~~~~

 

A big thank you to everyone who supported the Bacon Buttie Sunday charity event last weekend 23rd April. This was organised and run entirely by our Youth Stewards who raised almost £200. This will go towards a new PA system for the youth band and also contribute to the parish building fund. Well done!

                

Youth Band 

St. Edward’s now has a youth band with a range of musicians who play guitar, saxophone, flute and clarinet. If you are aged 13-18 and you’d like to join the group please come along to the next practice on Saturday 18th February 5pm-6pm in the church- more details on the facebook page soon. All instrumentalists are welcome, but we need a pianist, another guitar and lots more singers!

Masses organised by the Youth

The Young Stewards have arranged for the first Community Mass organised by the Youth of the Parish to take place on Saturday 25th March at 6.30pm. Everyone is warmly welcome but especially all young people who are at secondary schools and their families. After mass, there will be a youth social in the community centre from 7.30-8.30pm with refreshments. We are hoping that the youth will continue to organise the community masses on the last Saturday of each month ( 29th April, 27th May, 24th June, 30th September, 28th October and 25th November) but they will be advertised in the newsletter in advance in case there are any changes.

Bacon Buttie Sunday 

This will be the first fundraising event run by the Young Stewards. They are raising funds for the refurbishment of our Community Centre, and they will be serving bacon sandwiches, teas and coffees after the 9.30 and 11.30 Sunday masses on 19th March. Come along and support them!

Parish Questionnaires

Thank you to everyone who completed these. You can still send yours in if you didn’t make the deadline- just put it in the box at the back of the church when you’ve finished. Answer as many or as few questions as you want to.

Stewards of the Gospel News           February 18th/19th 2017

Parish Stewards

One of the main findings from the parish one minute survey we did last October was that parishioners felt we needed to have more youth involvement and music. Stewards have been working towards this and other issues which you raised, and we’ll keep you informed of these during the coming months.

Our Parish Stewards are: Caroline Dixon, Joan Murphy, John Sizer, Emma Bond, Amanda Mckiernon, Jonathan Rickard, Jenny McAvoy, Richard Cordery and Nicola Roberts. We are always looking for more people, so please join us if you’d like to help!                                                

Youth Stewards

We now have a fantastic team of young people committed to working in the parish and beyond. They will be fundraising as well as organizing events and activities for the youth of the parish. They now have a facebook page where you can find details of the latest parish youth news: Romford Young Stewards. The youth stewards are: Naimh Marshall, Hannah Francis, Megan Roberts, Isabel Roberts, Aidan Marshall, Ethan Walsh, Gabrielle O’Donoghue and Alice Kelly.