News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
by Father Stephen Pritchard
The newly established Lay Formation Fund enabled a group of people to take part in an event in London examining parish renewal. Thirteen people from Our Lady’s, Gateacre visited the Parish of Our Lady of Walsingham (POLOW) in Docklands in the heart of the East End of London.
The event was an ‘Open House’ opportunity to see some of the mistakes, learnings and fruit in POLOW’s effort to be a Catholic community that makes a difference. The ‘Open Door’ conference day drew people from different parts of the United Kingdom as well as Germany and even South Africa.
‘The Open House event was really inspiring. It was a thought-provoking day and I am excited to try some new things in our parish’, said Sally Green who on her return has gathered young people who play music to pray and share together.
The day was led by the Parish team of POLOW which covers two worship sites in the East End of London.
Workshops during the day covered three ‘keys’. One being parish culture, seeing what the soil is like in the parish, where is there rocky ground and where are areas of growth. How parish culture can change from maintenance to mission. The second key examined the Sunday experience. What do new people encounter when they come through the door of a local parish? POLOW shared where they have come from and where they would like to be. The third key was seeing how Alpha can be a non-threatening environment to invite new people to. How Alpha can form relationships, conversations, stimulate questions and ease people into the Sunday experience.
Sylvia Cawley reflected. ‘I felt the day energised me. The welcome made me feel that they really wanted us there. Listening to people’s stories and how the church community helped them. But I think for me most of all was the diversity of ages and how they all seemed to work together each doing their own tasks and united in the church community.’
The welcome that was experienced was a true model of what a Catholic community can be. This was echoed by Sean Keyes, ‘The welcoming that we received left a glow in my heart feeling really valued and important.’
For Shirley Green it was the ‘candidness’ that people spoke about their experience that she was taken aback with, ‘There was no hiding from the challenges and the difficulties they have faced. I was taken more with their wanting to share and celebrate all the good things that are happening.’
Since coming back the group have met on a number of occasions and have a list of actions points that are being worked on. They have spoken at Masses to share their experience with the rest of the parish. Those that went are meeting with other parish groups in the North West in November to move the journey forward. The Lay Formation Fund enabled this experience to happen and for so many people to take part.