Please use "comments" on this blog post to give your reactions to "We have found the Messiah", or to what is written here.
This is a personal reflection, not a view formed from across either the Vigil Group or the participants in the Sharing Vision day of 14 March.
I was working with the collated comments from the “Sharing Vision – the Future of Church” day on 14th March when the Archbishop's pastoral letter and vision “We have found the Messiah” (WHFTM) was promulgated.
Thinking about how to approach this brought to mind Gerry W. Hughes S.J.. A report by Brendan Walsh (The Tablet, 25 October 2014) of their last conversation included:
“When we read a Church document... rather than analysing it, we should 'notice our feelings as we read it. What do you actually physically feel? It might be attraction, it might be repulsion. You might feel, there is something out of tune here, but I can't pin it down.... We have been taught...not to trust our feelings. … Start from yourself as you really are... listen to your own experience.'”
The need to acknowledge reactions that are felt, not merely analysed and fluently expressed, is found also in paragraph 119 of Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium:
“The presence of the Spirit gives Christians a certain connaturality with divine realities,and a wisdom which enables them to grasp those realities intuitively, even when they lack the wherewithal to give them precise expression.”
Ideas such as this had influenced the 14 March event. It had a dynamic around trusting the small groups. These let everyone give voice to feelings as well as thoughts – their experience could be expressed without challenge. From that emerged the syntheses written onto flip-charts. These give snapshots of a rich theology of church and of our current experience. The event was a “bottom-up” experience of church that had trusted the Spirit in each other. It was proposed by participants that this should be captured and put on the web and sent to the Archbishop. Hence the pages here.
In the light of all this my own initial reactions to WHFTM included recognition of the need to plan for change, and as was said on 14th March, gratitude that Archbishop Cushley has brought this to the surface of things. Many ideas and quotes from Evangelii Gaudium in WHFTM hold attraction for me, but there is also a jumble of disappointment, anxiety, and some confusion. The following questions have emerged from this so far:
* There are assertions in WHFTM that I question, but I'm also concerned by what is not there. Had we the chance to communicate a theological basis for the reorganisation, what would then have been different? The flipcharts (from March 14th) are not done for that process, but perhaps indicate some of what might have been included. So does Evangelii Gaudium. On March 14th we saw gifted people with Christ-centred love and active commitment for the Church. They will, I am sure, exist in every parish. It puzzles me that the Archbishop chooses not to focus on this.
* The Archbishop could have proposed a bottom-up process of discernment, as has happened elsewhere... including here in 2006 with Now Is the Favourable Time (NITFT). Is it fair to say that the dynamic of the planning for reorganisation (as well as some of the theology of Church and Eucharist) is more suited to pre-Vatican-II times?
* The desired outcome still seems to be one cluster/ one parish/one church/one priest – not a cluster with one pastor and with multiple communities (both parish size and many much smaller within parishes), with renewed lay participation in leadership alongside pastors. That latter pattern of community of communities (a phrase used in the letter to the deaneries, which did little to encourage this) was also a conclusion of NITFT. It is routine in most of the Roman Catholic world, outside Europe especially – as links from here show. Why should our Archdiocese be different? How is the underpinning theology laid out in WHFTM different?
I hope that we will have widespread respectful conversation, in which willingness to re-form views, these being held only tentatively, is prerequisite. I fear we might be are on a different track.