A Time for Building Discussion Series: Growing Together; One Who Serves; That's Life; A World to Love. General editor David Miles Board (MayhewMcCrimmon 15p each) A Time for Building, the report of the working party set up by the Bishops' Conference to propose the lines of future pastoral action, has for its declared context "the world in which we live." Such is the complexity of the modern world — and indeed the ecclesiastical world is no less complex — that a simplistic approach to pastoral renewal will not do.
Most Catholics are aware of the many crises facing the Church today. We are told that the percentage of Catholic marriages that break down is higher than the average, that church attendance is dropping, as is the number of infant and adult baptisms.
Apart from these narrow "churchy" interests we share the economic and political uncertainties of our nation. As we try to face these challenges we search for a realistic approach to our own social development which will include a sense of responsibility and concern for justice and peace in other parts of the world.
It is in such a world that we strive to be a sign of the Kingdom of God in human history, the Church of Jesus Christ. And yet how do we bring together the vast, crisis-ridden, problem-centred world and our experience of Christian living, worship, and spirituality?
This series of four booklets gives us a useful starting point. Each of the pamphlets offers experiences met by priests, religious and laity, in their attempts to work out some of the questions raised by the report. Ranging from the role of groups, liturgical diversity, adult formation, and aspects of ministry for bishop, priest, religious and layperson, to the issues of daily life the family, work, education — and specific problems of the Church's ecumenical and curing mission in our inner-city areas as well as in the Third World, the authors' experiences will show us how we might respond to similar challenges.
Among such a galaxy of names as Michael Hollings, John Harriott, Kevin Donovan, Bishop Guazzelli, Sr Mary McAleese, Mrs Eleanor Barnes, it is hard tofind fault. I feel, however, that it is a symptom of our still over-elcricalised Church, that of 17 contributors only three are lay people !
I would hope that the publishers might see this series as a pilot venture and that eventually we might have more grass-roots' experience from a wider age-range and from more varied social backgrounds. would like to see material geared to specific groups, for example the young, and ordinary work ig class Citholics. Most or them. I feel, will not be attracted by the flavour of these booklets, or indeed the report itself.
We need to show people that their own experience of life, their own experience of faith, is what matters, and that a renewed Church will arise from such an encounter.
It seems to me that we can learn a lot from the written material produced by basic communities in Latin America and parts of Europe. In such works as the "Isolotto Catechism" we can sec a welding together of the religious and sociopolitical dimensions of faith.
Use is made of cartoon-type material, and the imagery of tabloid newspapers and popular magazines. The other criticism I have questions the value of grouping together all the discussion points at the end of each booklet rather than letting them follow from their relevant "experience".
That said, the series provides us with useful tools for discussing and implementing "A Time for Building". I hope that every parish will put aside funds to purchase sets of these booklets, and also to look into the other material available in study-kit and cassette form.