Special deanery meeting: the questions

If you weren’t able to attend today’s special deanery meeting, you’ll find the questions in  posts below — one post per question. Please use the comments facility to submit your response (and remember it will be visible to anyone who visits this blog)

Before answering, you might want to study again the You Are Living Stones Lent Update that was given out at Holy Mass a little while ago. If you’ve mislaid your copy, you can download it, along with other material, from this page.

When considering the questions, remember that “link” means “share a priest.”

Please submit your responses by Tuesday, 2nd April if you wish them to be considered when the deanery’s response to Bishop Malcolm is compiled.

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About Fr Martin

Fr Martin Sylvester is the dean of Nottingham West deanery, and parish priest of Long Eaton.
This entry was posted in Living Stones consultation, Open deanery meetings. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Special deanery meeting: the questions

  1. David & Louise Aldred says:

    Since the consultation is phrased as a number of specific questions, there is no way to make general points under those headings, so we’re doing so here.

    First: what factors should be considered in linking parishes? Some which seem important from the point of view of people in parishes are these:

    Transport. Can people get easily from one linked parish to another? If the priest is running a series of parish meetings in Lent, can people get to them – or is one parish left out; or one priest left having to repeat all the meetings? If we want to engage both and ageing population and young people, public transport links are the most important ones here; sheer distance also matters for personal transport for both priest and people.

    Local authorities. If a link crosses county or city authority boundaries, then a priest is left dealing with two different sets of officials, different rules, systems and social and political priorities. He’s probably also dealing with different primary and secondary schools – so four different head teachers, four different governing bodies, providing Mass at four schools. This should be avoided: it’s an enormous drag on the time available for parish work.

    Schools. If a Catholic primary school is in place, then that should mean that there is a sufficiently large community focussed on that location for a school to be economically and socially viable. Parishes sending children to the same school already have a common meeting point. Building links around existing schools is a logical step (unless populations have changed radically).

    Alongside these, current populations of parishes and the messages from changing demographics need taking into account. Those trends may well mean that a primary commitment not to close parishes is in fact unrealistic – and lay people are perhaps more aware of that than has been recognised in this consultation. At another level, should we have refurbished a five-bedroom presbytery in Beeston and be planning bulding a new presbytery in Wollaton when we haven’t enough priests to cover both?

    Second, there is a far bigger set of questions here which is simply not being addressed. The expectation must be that lay people will take a more active role in their parishes, to allow a single priest to cope with a more complex role covering a larger area. However there is no clear guidance on the proper role of the laity. If lay people are to be involved, there needs to be clarity, for two reasons:

    – without clear roles, responsibilities and authorities, disputes and arguments will arise, and
    parishes will be inhibited from working well

    – without this sort of clarity, it is not possible to create coherent and focussed structures for lay people to work together: with no clear aim, there can be no clear means.

    It may be said that we have been talking about collaborative ministry for a long time, and have only defined it by what it isn’t, where its limitations lie. We have not properly stated the role of the laity; and we have formal structures which place absolute power in the hands of parish priests, who can dismiss parish councils, give contradictory instructions to people, and spend money without any discussion with the people who pay the money.

    If the expectation is that the laity take a real responsibility for the parish, allowing the parish priest to be a leader, an inspirer, a teacher, a comforter and a father in faith, then they must also have the corresponding authority to decide on the day to day matters which, whilst very necessary to keep on the road, can easily become distractions from real mission.

    We need a Diocese-wide statement of the responsibilities and authorities which should be seen as proper to the laity; and a Diocesan commitment to ensuring that those proper roles are given to the laity wherever possible; not grudgingly, but willingly and with real trust.

    It must be said that empowering the laity means not running important meetings at 11am on a working day with only a few days notice. I don’t want to focus on criticism of that one meeting timing – this is a symptom, not a cause – but this sort of thing does give a strong message to the laity that we only matter where we can fit into clerical structures and timescales, and that is not conducive to engagement. At least in this case we have the opportunity to engage using modern means of communication as well!

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