Forward Together in Hope Resources
Questions and Responses July 11th Meeting
A number of questions were asked 'from the floor' with others being posed on feedback sheets. The questions and responses are presented here.
Forward Together in Hope is all about change. How can we grasp the extent of this change?
The basic change that matters is that possible within each of us as we discover how to become better witnesses to Jesus in our world today. We are called to be disciples in a changing world and a changing Church. One of the changes in our Church is in relation to the number of Catholics who worship in our Diocese. Thirty years ago there were around 100,000 people worshipping in our churches each weekend. Last year there were 36,500. That is a decrease of almost two thirds in 30 years. At the present moment we have 103 active priests in our diocese in over 170 parishes. We estimate that in 15 years' time, in 2030, we will have 50 active parish priests in the Diocese, less than half the number we have now. We need to think very seriously how we can ensure that our worshipping communities are viable and flourishing in the future so that we can continue to discover how to be dedicated disciples of Jesus.
Cardinal Hume used to have a phrase: 'When someone says; 'Something has to change around here', I get worried, because what it really means is, I have to change'. There is a danger that when we say something has to change we presume that it will happen out there, someone else will have to do something about it. In reality is means that every one of us will have to gradually see things differently, do different things with our time, build relationships with new people. It is never easy, but as someone once said: 'To live is to change and to be perfect is to change often'.
If everyone is inputting their questionnaires on line, how can the FTiH Team ensure that the system will not crash?
We decided in April last year (2014) that we would use the Questionnaire format to invite every Catholic to participate in discussion about our Church today and in the future. More recently we have been working with Karen Kilby, the Bede Professor of Theology in Durham University, and one of her colleagues, Mathew Guest, a Sociologist of Religion, to assist us in the format of the Questionnaire and in ways to analyse the results. They advise us that the Bristol Online Survey will adequately serve our needs and they have used this provider on previous occasions for surveys and research work. It has been used by other Departments of Durham University. It has a good track record in dealing with questionnaires like ours and we trust that it will do what we want it to do!
What if we cannot find anyone in the parish who will input via the on-line questionnaire?
One of the things that is happening in some parts of the Diocese is that people are volunteering to help with Forward Together in Hope who have never offered to do anything in the past. It may well be that there actually is someone in the community who can manage electronic communication, and a call out to someone to spend a couple of hours later in the year might reveal someone to assist.
It may well be that there will be someone in a neighbouring parish who could help.
At the end of the day, no one need worry, if there is a problem, then get in touch with the FTiH Team and we will find a way of helping to have it completed. The absolute last resort will be to use paper
If all the answers to the Questionnaire have been typed up in Word, does this mean that it will have to be re-typed again on line?
If the information has been collated into a Word version of the Questionnaire, you can use the cut and paste facility so that the text will not require retyping.
Can the questions in the Reflective part of the Questionnaire – part B – be more than 250 words?
It is a fairly comprehensive questionnaire, and there are over 170 submissions to be analysed. We decided that there was a real danger that analysis would be just impossible if the responses were too long, so they are restricted to 250 words. It is possible to use bullet points to catch as many responses and observations as possible. There is no restriction on Part C of the Questionnaire (page 45) on the Community's Initial Thoughts and Ideas about the Future, or in response to the request for example of Good Practice (Question12 on page 44).
Why did the Bishop decide on Forward Together in HOPE, rather than Faith or Charity?
There was a good deal of discussion at the Bishop's Council away-days in January this year about the title. Some of the discussion focussed on how we are all called to each of the virtues but that Hope is the one we understand least! It is the virtue which invites us all to wonder about the future, wonder how the Spirit will guide us in the future and ensures that we have confidence that the Lord is indeed with us always, even to the end of time. It is very different from 'Optimism,' – which is really a desire for what we want to happen. Hope is a statement of faith that the God who loves us will guide us in the right direction.
Incidentally, the Philosopher Kierkeguaard once said: 'Hope is only a virtue in a hopeless situation'. The situation we're in isn't hopeless – but there's something delightfully risky and faithful in what he says.
Why are Deans not more proactive in providing support for parishes?
There may be a feeling around that when a Bishop wants something to happen then he lets the Deans know and they then let the priests know and then it happens! It doesn't quite work like that! In many ways each parish has a great deal of independence. The Church is most effective in each locality, and each locality is different. It is not the case that 'HQ of the Church' is in the Vatican and then everything flows from there – each parish is a community of people who love God and neighbour in their area. The Bishop is the focus of unity of the Church in each Diocese.
Having said that, all the Deans in the Diocese have been contacted and meetings are being arranged at Deanery level between early September and mid-October. Either Tony or Jim will facilitate them (or both if they're both available) and every priest, lay representative, school and other interested parties will be able to attend.
How do we get those not worshipping back to Mass?
Anyone who can answer this one will make a fortune! Some communities are approaching school chaplains and asking them to approach the parents of children who attend the school to look at the Questionnaire from their point of view. Some communities are asking people to mingle with those who bring children to school and explore with them how they feel about the church.
In the near future we will be releasing a very short questionnaire which we hope will find its way into the hands of people who no longer worship – among others. It will be an electronic exercise, and hopefully we will be able to discover some of the reasons why so many people have ceased to worship in our communities. It may be that we have to humbly engage in some reflection on why people choose not to worship with us. Cardinal Casper once said: 'For it is not enough to tell, what is wrong with them, we have to ask what is wrong or what is deficient with our own pastoral work? Why do so many Christians leave our Church? What are they missing with us and searching elsewhere?'
Is it possible to have more meetings like this?
It certainly is, but perhaps we need to sense the lie of the land during our Deanery meetings later in September/October and see what Parish Representatives need then.
What can we do about 'Apathy' – a Lay Representative requested people to stay behind after mass and very few did.
Quite honestly, we can only do the best we can! Some priests are using the homily time during mass to invite people to respond to the pre-printed questions on cards, or have invited people to take away a couple of questions that will be explored the following week. It's important for us to remember that this may be the first time that regular mass goers have been invited to participate in a diocesan wide discussion, so it is not too surprising that some find it 'unusual'. It is perhaps worth adding that the small group that met did produce 6 pages of reflections and the whole parish has been invited to respond to them.
Forward Together in Hope Team