TODAY IS HOME MISSION SUNDAY, when we pray for God’s blessing on efforts to re-evangelise this country and ask you to support the work of the Home Mission Office of the Bishops’ Conference. For details of what the money is used for go to the Home Mission Sunday website.
Each year new statistics appear which provide evidence that the level of practice of Christianity in this country, particularly among people who were born here, is getting rapidly lower all the time: fewer people coming to church on Sundays, fewer babies being baptised, fewer weddings in church. Even avowed atheists are now alarmed that people are increasingly unaware of the Christian part of the heritage and history of this country: recent reports and recommendations about religious teaching in schools show how rapidly things have changed.
The Home Mission website says that the money raised in this collection last year enabled the bishops ‘to provide training and support to diocesan evangelisation personnel, put on events that inspire people to share their faith and encourage the faithful to pray for evangelisation’. There is a sense in which in Beckenham we probably need this sort of help rather less than some parishes, partly because we are, on the whole, more ‘geared up’ to mission, to helping people through us to encounter the Christian message. There are lots of ways in which we do this, and they don’t all happen in other parishes, indeed in some parishes none of them happen; but here are just a few:
- We keep the church open all day, every day (except when it is being cleaned) and the doors very clearly open;
- Mass is celebrated reverently with joy and care, and generally people can see and hear what is going on;
- We have a well-managed and open parish administrative office;
- We have a parish website, webcam facility and Facebook page, and a well-produced parish newsletter;
- Because we are the largest church in Beckenham (both in terms of numbers and possibly the size of the building) and have many church services, we have a big and visible public profile compared to some Catholic churches. We are not a ‘hole in the corner’.
- We have, every year, a successful and well-organised RCIA programme, which has been publicised over the last two weekends;
- In recent years we have tried also to deliver a special newsletter called ‘St Ed’ to most of the homes in the geographical parish of Beckenham. This has attracted over the years a lot of positive comments.
I have put this last thing in bold type – why? Because St Ed is going to be re-launched shortly, so that as many of us as possible can help. Very few Catholic parishes try to do this; it is much more common among Anglican churches. It is a big commitment for a community, even one as strong as ours, but it is worthwhile. It doesn’t cost us anything because it is funded by advertising.
The re-launch at this stage entails:
- Forming a small editorial group who will take responsibility for putting content together. The front page tries to address some aspect of Christian teaching in a way which will be accessible to readers from a wide variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, together with coverage of things we are doing in the parish.
- Re-forming the group of volunteers to deliver the newsletters. Recently some people who originally, perhaps some years ago, offered to deliver them in their road have not been collecting their bundles which have therefore been left lying around the porch. Covering most of the parish should not be that difficult for a worshipping community of our size, if it really matters to us.
Please email Fr Ashley if you are able to help in either or both of these ways. This really is important; what this Sunday is about is helping us realise that sharing the Christian faith with others is an intrinsic part of what it means to be a Christian.