Hardest Question from the Gospels

How do you keep the Faith?

Many, many years ago there was a village with a very successful and prosperous community. Every possible skill and trade was present in the village and they all worked together to ensure the prosperity in the community and village flourished. They had every skill and trade except one. There was no clockmaker.

Everyone had a clock and as time went by some people stopped winding them up as nobody could service or fix them. They gave up, what was the point!

However, some people carried on winding the clocks, even though they were erratic in their behaviour by giving an incorrect time and in some cases stopping to work completely. They carried on winding their clocks somehow secure in the belief that, one day, everything would be OK.

At last a clockmaker came to live in the village and, of course, he was inundated with work being asked to mend all the clocks.

The clocks where the people had given up winding the clocks were unable to be mended as they had seized up and had become rusty etc…

Nothing could be done to fix them.

The clocks where the people had continued to wind the clocks despite them giving incorrect times etc. could be mended.

If we read Parish instead of village and Prayer and Participation instead of winding the clock.

I hope you can see where I am coming from – Prayer in a Parish is an essential and powerful thing, as is participation (people getting involved).

The people who stopped winding the clocks had given up any thought or possibility that, in the future, things would work out. They had lost their faith in believing that someone would come and help them.

Whilst the people who kept remembering to wind their clocks were always sure that a clockmaker or someone would come to the village. Their faith/prayer was rewarded, also the fact that they kept participating through “winding their clocks” ensured that their community spirit and prosperity would continue.

I would ask all of you to pray for everyone in the Parish and if you have a skill and or the time to participate in the life of the Parish then we can face the future in a positive manner and face any challenges which may come our way.

We can do this together, it is no use leaving all this to the few who answer the questions or to me and my team, we can and need to do this together as a Parish. The Holy Spirit is at work here, open your hearts and minds and let him in.


More young people involved

That starts tomorrow with the FHC class. The children have brought their music to the church and some of the older primary children will be doing the readings as well as helping to welcome you into the Church.

Once the confirmation group are up to speed it is hoped that they can also become involved in helping at a Mass.

A reintroduction of the neighbourhood groups was raised as an excellent way to build community and support in the Parish. We need to take a census of the Parish to get an up to date picture of how the Parish looks and then from this information we will organise the neighbourhood groups.

Children’s liturgy at the 9 am mass – we hope to start this as soon as possible. If you feel you have something to offer, please get in touch.

On the questions front, there has been a lot of comments of how “highbrow” the questions are, I must agree with you there and the fact that some of them repeat themselves. We are planning to make things a bit easier to understand in future so please continue to reply, and hopefully the number of responses will increase.


Positive things that have happened

In response to your feedback from the surveys and questions

Tea and coffee at 9 am mass. This has been successful, however we would invite more of you to attend and possibly offer your help. Talk to the group and see what is involved – it is less than you think.

Steward of the Gospel Initiative involves

The key tasks for the Stewards of the Gospel will be:

  • To examine their own parish, to find out what is going on and to pave the way for a plan for better evangelisation in and by the parish.
  • To begin to discern “which parish belongs to which” when it comes to working together in future.
  • To be a source of creative inspiration, looking for new ways to evangelise.
  • To be the voice of the laity when it comes to discerning the principles and priorities on which future plans will be based.
  • To be the voice of the laity when it comes to implementing the agreed principles in the particular local situation of their own parishes.

When the role is laid out like this you think – How does a guy from Glasgow, brought up as a protestant and when going to school, if a catholic kid walked around the corner, we would cross to the other side of the road – end up tasked with helping to steer this Parish through the challenges that lie ahead.

There is only one answer - the Holy Spirit has been and still is hard at work. I think he has been working on me for quite a few years now.

This is not change for change’s sake, this change is necessary to enable the Diocese, each Parish and the Catholic faith to go forward and meet the challenges that lie ahead in the future.

I cannot do this on my own, your participation is essential for the Steward of the Gospel initiative to be successful.

After the Brexit referendum, a father rang into a local radio saying that his son was absolutely furious with him and all the “oldies” for voting to leave the EU.

“You have all ruined my future and my life” he said.

“Hang on a minute son, did you register to vote?” says dad

 “Of course, I did, weeks ago” said the son.

“Did you vote?” asks the father.

 “Well no” said the son.

“Why not?” asks father.

“Well” says the son, “I had tickets for Glastonbury”.

You, as practicing Catholics, are already registered to vote, so please get involved and have a say, enter into discussions about the questions etc.…. and if possible, come along to any Steward of the Gospel activities.

You have the chance to have your say now.

Executive Summary Report from Our Lady Queen of Peace, Braintree

Analysis of the questionnaire and discussions within the Parish have revealed the following priorities:

a) More involvement from the youth of the Parish.

Plans are being made for a senior youth club to be formed which will cater for 14+ years. A disco is planned for 28th April where young people are encouraged to attend and give their ideas of what they would like to see happen. It is hoped the 16-young people, who were confirmed recently, will get involved. A group of 14 younger children have committed themselves to joining the Offertory procession team at the 9.00 Mass on Sunday mornings. St Francis school will also be working hard to join with the Parish after Easter.

b) More community support is wanted within the Parish.

Tea and coffee after 9.00 Mass has been restarted and, along with the established session after 11:00 Mass, is proving to be very popular. Steward of the Gospel social evenings were warmly received. Although those attending were few in number, the commitment was first class. More are planned in the future. Neighbourhood groups will be started within the Parish, which will build community spirit throughout the Parish.

c) More communication with other Parishes in the area (North Essex Deanery).

This has already started with meetings and discussions within the Steward of the Gospel Geographical groups. The Parishes involved are Stansted, Saffron Walden, Gt Dunmow. Gt. Bardfield and Thaxted, Halstead, Braintree, Kelvedon and Maldon. Further discussions will take place.

d) More communication with other Churches and Religions within the Braintree area.

Responses from the questions showed that many of the Parishioners were involved in various Outreach projects on an individual basis. It is hoped that these can be developed where the Parish can become involved.

e) More effective management in Parish by Parish Council and Finance Committee to relieve the workload on the Priest, if he is required to attend to the spiritual needs of more than one Parish.

The Parish Council needs to effectively take over the Administration and Running of the Parish, meeting on a monthly or six-weekly basis. The Finance Committee would be one of the executive working groups of the Parish Council. The Parish Council would, therefore, be made up of representatives from each Parish and Neighbourhood group thereby enabling a truly representative group being aware of the needs and activities within the parish. The Parish Priest will then be freed to concentrate on the Spiritual life and development of the parish or parishes.

Anything less than the above will continue to assist the slow decline which has been evident in Mass attendance, the falling away of young people and the lack of Priests: where those who remain will be required to cover two, sometimes three parishes, in the years to come. We see the newly-formed Parish Council, set out above, as a dynamic body supporting the parish priest and rebuilding the parish community in a caring and accountable way. We feel that reforming the Parish Council as outlined above should take place as soon as possible, waiting for the time when the Priest may have to cover more than one Parish could be too late. Better to be prepared and ready to meet these challenges if they arise.

Responses from Parishioners Question 1


Question  1.a - How can your community look to sustain and increase the number of people worshipping with you towards 2030?  

Response 1   More effort is needed to include our Catholic schools into the Parish. First communion and Confirmation instruction should take place in schools. There should be more children’s masses involving the whole family, therefore getting the parents more involved. More emphasis on “Youth Leader” for social functions aimed at the younger members of the Parish. Integrate the new ethnic communities into Parish life (e.g. Polish), ministers, readers etc… Encourage more social integrations. Let them see that it is their Parish as well.   

Response 2   Neighbourhood groups that will meet regularly for social contact, prayer and any relevant Christian actions within their area.  Developing initiatives for young parishioners to enable them to discuss aspects of their faith, their needs and how they can contribute to the Parish. Ensure each Neighbourhood Group, Parish organization and especially young parishioners have a representative on the Parish Council. The administration of the Parish, including income and expenditure, to which the Finance Committee will report, is fully taken over by the Parish Council; meeting on a more regular basis e.g. monthly or six weekly. Yearly plan of activities together with identification of Projects that mat require longer e.g. 3 – 5 years.   Encourage development of Prayer/Faith group to pray for the Parish. Parish Suggestion Box at back of Church asking for constructive suggestions regarding improvement etc… Parish priest to be asked to conclude weekend sermons with practical suggestion of action or prayer that parishioners can put into practice during the following week..  

Response 3   Increase sense of community   Find ways of making people feel more welcome and involved.  For example:    Geographically based neighbourhood groups Tea/coffee after Sunday Masses Vibrant social opportunities some targeting specific age groups, some mixing them up.  Some examples: informal picnics in local beauty spots; sports activities; barbecues; d.i.y. concerts involving parishioners.   Increase worshippers   Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, including by looking at ways in which other worshipping communities conduct their services.   Seek help from available experts (Walsingham House, Brentwood Youth Service, …) in ways of enthusing and sustaining the faith of young people.   Actively seek to make welcome the non-Catholic (and non-Christian) spouses of worshipping parishioners – see “community” above.   Empathise with people who have little knowledge of Christianity – how can we introduce them to Jesus in a clear and uncomplicated way?  Lay off the rules and regulations - we are not Pharisees.   Run Alpha courses or similar led by trained lay people where we can re-examine and deepen our faith.    Explore more diverse ways of worship:    Invite older “cradle” Catholics to re-educate others in traditional forms of worship such as the Rosary, Angelus, Benediction, morning and evening prayer.  Some of us are unfamiliar with these and feel awkward when we attempt to join in.   ·         Hold celebrations of the Eucharist in which young people take an active part.   ·        Encourage much more support for Children’s Liturgy of the Word – train teenagers to give active support and encourage parents to get involved.   ·         Invite different parish groups to plan and execute occasional informal worship occasions – perhaps joint ecumenical services in partnership with other churches – which will be accessible to non-Catholics and can be led by the laity.   

Response 4   It's no longer good enough to 'expect' people to attend Mass and to contribute to the activities of the church.  We need to get out and spread the good news.   When someone joins our church - do we have a welcome pack for them?  Does a member of the parish visit them with say a little gift?  Do we ask about their children and offer suggestions on how the children are involved in our church?  Do we ask, not just for monetary contributions but would the new arrivals like to join the Readers at Mass?  Are they Eucharistic Ministers?  Instead of expecting people to offer, what do we as a Parish do to welcome and encourage attendance?  What skills can our parishoners offer that we can put to use in our Church?  Who asks these questions?  Father David mentioned a census - can we include skills of parishoners that we could utilise?  How welcome to people really feel?  Are our parish groups so established that newcomers feel almost 'unwelcome' in terms of joining in?   Also, we need to focus on our children and their parents.  We run our Communion and Confirmation classes.  What happens to children and parents between Communion and Confirmation?  How do we encourage families to keep in contact with our Parish in between the Sacraments.  I think that this is an area we can focus on to increase family worship.   

Response 5   Can’t force people to attend I believe. (2017 – new housing new people coming to area).   

Response 6   Each year on the first Sunday of Lent, a large number of RCIA candidates are introduced to the Bishop to be enrolled prior to being fully received at Easter. My late wife and myself were 2/310 in 1995. With shortage of priests how many are adequately catered for afterwards? Closures and amalgamation should not provide the answer.  

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