by G. M. Laurie
IF THE experience of one deanery is anything to go by, the Easter People are finding it far from easy to put the ideas of the National Pastoral Congress into practice. And, as we begin a new liturgical year, we'd like to share with you our progress — or lack of it.
To begin with, just to have the clergy and laity from a dozen parishes face to uncertain face was a novel experience. For some, perhaps a siaring experience.
Laity were waiting with a sense of traditional deference for a lead from the priesthood; clergy, keyed up to cope with a flood tide of democratic demand, waited for a lead from laity.
Our first "joint" deanery meeting preceded the bishops' verdict on the Congress. Perhaps, then, it was natural to direct fire at the hierarchy's delay as an excuse for our own uncertainties.
Al the second meeting, just after publication of The Easter People. talk revolred in rapid circles around "needs" and "resources". On both occasions, we resolved to go away and draw up lists of both in every parish. Very inconclusive.
Third time lucky? Two or three parishes have attempted surveys by questionnaire. Some have forgotten about it. One parish priest is quietly delighted to have persuaded parishioners to come to the third meeting for the first time — a major achievement ( which certain other parishes have not vet managed to reach).
Everyone is worried about cornmunications. Some are worried about what to communicate. Perhaps we should have cornmittees? No, too structured. But without a structure how can we move forward? Compile more lists? A deanery directory would at least give us some idea of what is already being done.
A long list of possible areas of need comes stumbling out. Spiritual formation, youth support, skill sharing, justice ( and peace), education, social activities, family support, sacramental life. pastoral collaboration, faith, liturgy, ecumenism, evangelisation, care, formation of the young, formation of adults, parish organisation — finance, eren. Someone suggests presentations by CMAC, KSC, ICF, UCM, CWL, RSVP. Exchanged looks indicate that not everyone even knows what the initials stand for, Or whether their parish has got one — let alone what it does if they do have one.
The Canon's plea for a lay chairman at future meetings summons a deafening silence. The sound of passing bucks emerges and a man — woman support team is gently coerced into promising backup to the Canon if he'll retain the chair (at least for another six months).
At the next meeting (adrance notice of which will be formally circulated by the secretarial support duo) parish B will tell us what they are doing to answer the nascent call for a parish council.
Those of us who hase one will contribute stories of its early struggles, what it has achieved and the challenges which it meets.
As Father George put it earlier — we are all benefitting from more openness — and it's painful to share some of our weaknesses.
One or two would like is to aim at achieving the universal Kingdom of God next peek; we have heard requests for academic theses for action and desperate pleas to akobid paperwork others simply want action, of almost any kind, so that we can notch up visible achievement.
You may not think it important but ... we're learning to talk to each other. It could be another six months before we can understand each other, accept each other's differences sufficiently to reach tentative broad agreement on just one subject. I for one an beginning to see why some international diplomatic conventions take so long just to draw upan agenda!
I don't think we're wasting our time. I'll bet there is no parish, deanery or diocese in the country working harder than we are. Some may have aken faster first steps but, then, they're a different group of people; perhaps their next steps will be slower.
The National Pastoral Congress was not about drartat ic changes. Nor was The Lls ter People. But all of is havebeen changed by Liverpol. l'Ilkeep you posted on our lext roves. Organic growth is run.