On behalf of the clergy, I wish you all a very blessed Easter. We are immensely grateful for your prayers, good wishes, and Easter cards. Fr Ashley, Fr David and I of course thank you for your generous Easter offerings.
Sometimes amidst all the backlog and drudgery of work, something pleasant happens. Earlier this morning on Good Friday I ventured into the church to join the Children’s Liturgy. As I watched them lead the Stations of the Cross I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of wellbeing. The children with bright faces and loud voices gave their best. Their parents were rightly proud, and I came away contented. Later, in a moment of reflection I found myself appreciative of the dedication and commitment of many in our parish who are stepping out in faith and doing their best. There have been many occasions when generous people have helped in various ways. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am, especially at times when life is daunting and obstacles appear insurmountable. Thank you to the catechists who are forging ahead with last year’s and this year’s first holy communion children. It’s going to be a busy summer! In recent weeks there have been different people leading the rosary and the Divine Office. In particular there has been the powerful witness of the stations of the cross. A number of you were able to follow Fr Ashley’s Lenten talks on Wednesday evenings and afterwards share in the discussions via zoom. I now have a greater insight and appreciation of Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti. There are many other examples I can give on how a parish works best when more people get involved.
This brings me onto the main thrust of what I would like to say to you. I would dearly love everyone to give careful consideration to the following statement and what follows.
BEING FORMED IN THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST, WE STRIVE TO BECOME A TRULY CHRIST CENTRED COMMUNITY, THROUGH HUMBLE WITNESS, LOVE, COMPASSION AND COMMUNION.
Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to memorise it, although many of you could easily do so, but I am asking you please to reflect upon it, to discuss it with one another and above all include it in your prayers. The reason why I ask you to do this is because it is our parish mission statement agreed by the clergy team on 12 January 2020. In fact, let me take you back further to 2018 when the clergy team came together to discuss a vision for the parish and put together the mission statement we finally agreed on. The inspiration behind the parish vision is a book by Fr James Mallon entitled Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to Mission Parish. I have written about this before in our newsletter and I feel the time is right to bring it to your attention again as we enter the Easter season and our parish gets back to some kind of normality.
Fr Mallon believes that instead of simply meeting the needs of the people and maintaining the buildings, priests and parishioners need to go further and embrace their mission which is to make disciples of others. In his book he describes how his own parish of St James, in Halifax, Nova Scotia gradually went through a process of renewal.
However, none of this would have happened if Fr James and his parishioners had not been working in unison, using all the God given gifts and talents each member possessed. We need to do the same if we want to draw others into an experience of God’s love for them. I know with certainty, if we are obedient to Our Lord’s command to ‘Go make disciples of all the nations’ (Matthew 28:19) and if we are true to our baptismal promises, then each one of us will not only be instrumental in radically changing the lives of others, but we as individuals and our parish family, will receive countless blessings.
When we began our discussions, the clergy team consisted of Fr Ashley, Fr Simplicio, Deacon Sean and me. Over time the personnel has changed. We were joined by Sandy Misquitta and Ray Williamson (both of whom will be ordained to the Perm-anent Diaconate this year), and Deacon Duncan Aitkins who joined us from Biggin Hill parish. We lost Fr Simplicio who moved to St Dominic’s parish in Waddon, and we welcomed Fr David Atuanya, a Spiritan priest from Nigeria. However, despite the changes and the upheaval and delay caused by the rather debilitating intervention of the pandemic, we remain committed and on course with our vision.
Covid, of course has caused fear, uncertainty, deep sorrow, anger and isolation. There is no denying this reality. People have lost family members, friends and work colleagues. Many have become unemployed and many more will do so as we face a recession that may go on for years. We must of course stand alongside these brothers and sisters and offer the best help we can, but above all we must hold fast to the reality that out of suffering comes healing, out of sadness comes joy and from defeat we become victorious. On the Lenten road we have died to self and carried our cross; now we rise up and walk with the risen Lord as on the road to Emmaus, we wait to be enlightened, to recognise Him afresh in the words of scripture, the breaking of the bread and the world around us. This is the Easter story! Yes, the world is broken and crushed and desperately needs the healing, saving Christ. It is imperative therefore that we step up to be the channels of His Good News and restore the love, hope and dignity He wishes to impart to those who thirst.
I want to thank Archbishop John for his prayers and support for our parish vision. When I met him two years ago, I shared some thoughts and ideas with him and was greatly encouraged by his keen interest and promise of prayers. Thanks also to Pauline D’Souza and her brother Richard for facilitating our clergy meetings and for always being on the end of the phone to encourage and advise. I also want to express my gratitude to members of the team who have taken the lead in key areas: Fr Ashley (Liturgy), Sandy Misquitta (Faith & Formation), Ray Williamson (Pastoral), Deacon Sean (Administration). I will be the lead on personal witness. Finally, and at the risk of embarrassing him, I would like to thank Fr Simplicio as the mission statement we finally arrived at was largely down to him.
As I said at the beginning, our efforts in these areas will only bear fruit when we generously pray, walk and work with each other. What we are embarking on is a fresh and new way of living our faith.