News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
by Eleanor Lalley
There are not many parish evenings that involve open Q and A, a panel to reflect on and answer questions and a shiny black Labrador retriever puppy, but just such an event happened at Sacred Heart Church in Ainsdale, Southport, at the end of January.
The idea for a Parish Question Time came from parishioner Alice Reston as a way for the ‘HeartStone’ community, the paired parish of Sacred Heart and St John Stone, to practice listening and learning from each other on the road to Synod 2020. Question Time brought together a guest panel from the parish and diocese (made up of Professor John Sullivan, Mrs Veronica Murphy, Father Chris Thomas and Mrs Eleanor Lalley) to attempt to answer the intelligent and challenging questions from the audience. Maddie was the Labrador puppy and perhaps theologian-in-training.
Some questions had been submitted in advance and some came straight from the floor. What sort of questions do ‘HeartStone’ parishioners ask? The questions did not shy away from any topic but were especially focused on intercessory prayer, the Synod, the Creeds, families, young people and young adults, smaller church populations and what lay ministry looks like and might look like in practice. There was an intense dialogue about married men in the priesthood and the theology of Original Sin versus Original Blessing. The Parish Priest, Father Tony Slingo, bravely volunteered to moderate (and survived) these lively discussions and helped solicit comments, allowing as many topics as possible during Question Time.
Mostly the Parish Question Time was an excellent example of adult learning and listening within the parish. In 2015 and 2017 the parish undertook listening exercises to hear the honest views of parishioners and to discern the way forward. Carrying on from these listening exercises, a Parish Open Forum is now established twice a year to help people listen to each other. This first Question Time was an addition which helped everyone practice the listening skills they will use in the Synod2020 meetings and discussions in the coming months.