Throughout the day many said how essential and how rare are the opportunities to speak freely without fear, to be listened to non-judgementally, to be accepted and heard when speaking of the double-edged response they felt towards the Roman Catholic Church. Among issues raised, this group was intensely critical of the new Mass translation, one of several all too well-known symptoms of what we perceived as persisting pre-Vatican II mould of institutional Church. We heard a deep yearning for wrongs to be righted, for freedom to be given, for voices to be raised and listened to, for priesthood (and much else) to be re-imagined. There was also acceptance of shared responsibility not only for what the Church might become, but also for what the Church is – in part through our silence and failure to seek dialogue with those exercising authority. We recognised the need to seek ways we can move forward in fuller expression of our Baptismal calling. Remembering that calling, with prayer and other action in small groups, was seen as the antidote to the all too common sense of powerlessness.
We returned time and again to pray and to be drawn by positive energies: by the good we have experienced in the Church; to consider how frustrations about the institution shed light on what we deeply wanted, and to envisage and hear of life-giving ways to be Church. We heard of small Gospel-based groups; of those befriending the poor and marginalised; of the vision of laity and ordained sharing prayer and community as a foundation for their ministries; of a new resonance in ecumenical initiatives and communities. We heard of a parish where there has been no priest for some time - instead of dispersing elsewhere to attend Mass as they were told, they opted to stay together in their parish family and break the Word, faithfully, every Sunday.
We prayed with Mark 16:9-15, in which the disciples moved from confusion and doubt to being called to change the world through the encounter with the Risen Christ. This challenge to live the Gospel, and then to reflect on that experience, was strengthened by our encounter with each other. The disciples did not begin with an intellectual understanding of, or assent to, an imposed narrow theology. The sense of being driven and subjugated was contrasted with the action of the Spirit in drawing us into something new. We returned time and again to the hope and excitement that the Holy Father's words and actions kindle. We began to reflect on that hope and excitement - for they speak of the Church we are drawn to be: the Church we can create in our own small groups without waiting for change in the Vatican, dioceses or parishes. The day ended with a liturgy of commitment and the prayer from Ephesians 3: “... Glory be to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine...”
The day was hosted by The Vigil Group, and given vitality by all the participants. The Vigil Group (thevigilgroup.org.uk) is a name adopted for two main reasons. Firstly, the group began to form over 40 evenings of prayer up to last Pentecost, and continues now with a daily commitment to pray for renewal of ourselves and the Church. There are monthly meetings for those in range of Edinburgh. The second reason is to do with how a vigil is alert to a new time. We now feel that that we are living in a period of the Church that is especially graced and important; that we have been brought to the threshold of something new by what is happening in our Church.