What might the Church of England look like in a decade? This might be said to be the million pound question, especially given central church bodies are releasing millions of pounds towards the re-evangelisation (or perhaps the evangelisation) of England. It is to be hoped that if these projects work then the Christian communities of England will have grown or at least remained stable. What place might the Catholic Movement have in this re-evangelising church?
One of the important ways this can be done is in finding ways to make new adult disciples of Jesus Christ. We need to find new ways of engaging with a generation who may have had little or no religious education and who are coming into contact with the church for the first time. As a movement we need to be providing appropriate catechetical material that is engaging and easy to use. It is also important to empower the whole people of God in this work of making new disciples so that both clergy and laity alike are engaged in the work of teaching and guiding. We should not forget that the Lord, in sending out the disciples, sent them out in pairs, so that one could support and sustain the other in the Christian journey. The first step in walking the way of discipleship is to make sure the new disciple is accompanied by another Christian.
From these first seeds of Christian Discipleship we hope will grow new Eucharistic communities. Our Evangelical brothers and sisters have great skill in planting new communities and growing them. Their priests and people are willing to make a commitment to leave the comfort and security of one church community and building; and seek to build a new community elsewhere. In doing this we need to find way to ensure that our parishes are centres of excellence in Catholic evangelism, hospitality, service, and witness. There is so much good work going on, we simply need to find new ways to speak about it and to train others in doing this work. If we are to find a way to model across all our parishes these models of excellence then we will not only need to share ideas but we will need to share resources. Whilst the practical resources such as courses and plans will be easier to come by the harder resource to share will be the people who can be trained and strategically placed to ensure that the best work can be done. This will mean our parishes will have join together in mission partnerships in order to share the resources, for example, or a youth worker or missioner; or someone working in adult education. This is already happening in many of our parishes but it will need to happen in more if we are to build new and vibrant Eucharistic communities as well as resourcing our current parish structures,
If we can get this emphasis on making Christian disciples right and if we can find a way to reach out to our young people then we might just have the means to face the next challenge. Put simply we need more vocations; both to the priesthood and also, perhaps more importantly, to live out faithful lives as Catholic Christians. We need to find ways to reach speak about the vocation to the priesthood across our country and to attract men from all backgrounds to consider their call to the priestly vocation. If we can do this then we will be able to ensure we have enough vocations to fill our parishes and to reach out and plant other communities as well.
So, there are the challenges we are faced with for the future – how to we grow disciples, how to we grow new Eucharistic communities, and how do we supply these new communities with priests and lay leaders. There are no quick or easy answers to these questions. We need to begin with prayer and move forward. Now is the moment to begin this work, it will take time but if we fail to act now we risk the whole work of evangelism being taken away from us and being side-lined in an increasingly ‘liberal evangelical’ church that has very little concern for what matters to us.