Reclaiming the Future
Blogged by James Preece on 14th October 2008
It's four or five years since Fr John Paul Leonard first came down to Hull to encourage local youth leaders to get together and organise something for National Youth Sunday. Since then, we've had young people in Hull doing everything from decorating candles and playing parachute games, to sitting in groups discussing the scriptures and going to benediction.
This year, for reasons that only Youth Managers can possibly understand, it's been cancelled. There will be no event in Hull. Young people in Hull will need to travel to York. Not because of a lack of volunteers, you understand, we are all here and ready to go, but because the Youth Office has 'decided'.
Meanwhile "joint effort by the livesimply network and the youth ministry community in England and Wales" has produced reclaimthefuture.org.uk.
There is so much wrong with this website, the cowboy website builders they have employed are using tables for layout and Word Documents for simple text downloads - just put it on a web page! The whole reason we have web pages made of HTML instead of Word is that Word doesn't work well on the internet.
Let's start with the Liturgy section. There, we find some fine suggestions for parts of the liturgy...
In place of these simple prayers, you could lead the congregation in a more reflective Penitential Rite. For example, highlight the idea that God calls us to wholeness, and to mend a broken world. Use a picture of globe, cut into three pieces, and bring these broken pieces together in a mime, dance or movement as you pray the words, ‘Lord, have mercy…’ and so on.
Or ask a group to think beforehand of some of the ways that we fail to live simply, sustainably or in solidarity with the poor, and name these in a litany of penance. For example:
For the times we’ve wasted energy…
For throwing away unused food…
For turning away from someone in need…
For over filling our kettles…
For wasting paper…
For failing to speak up for the refugee or asylum seeker…
Lord, have mercy.
Note: this would work well musically, too, using a simple refrain.
This passage works well as a simple mimed drama or dance. One person can play the role of the shepherd Lord, who stands amongst his sheep. As the passage is read – slowly and strongly – different lines can be dramatised. For example, in the line, ‘I will rescue them from wherever they have been scattered’, ‘sheep’ can wander round in a confused way, using raised hands to symbolise searching in the darkness, with the Lord collecting each one and returning them together.
Movements should be simple but obvious enough to be able to be seen clearly.
You may wish to play some gentle, reflective music in the background.
Another option for illustrating this reading is to scatter the different ‘sheep’ across the congregation. This time, nominated people sit throughout the church or worship space and are brought together by the Shepherd who moves amongst the people. The growing flock of sheep can then be brought to the front of the church for the final lines.
Ideally, of course, the psalm should be sung. There are many and varied musical versions based on this well known passage, including:
Because the Lord is my shepherd (Christopher Walker)
God alone may lead… (Tom Conry)
Shepherd me, O God (Marty Haugen)
I’ll sing God’s praises (Aniceto Nazareth)
The King of love my Shepherd is (Henry Williams Baker)
It’s another well-known passage of Scripture! This Gospel again lends itself to dramatic presentation and symbolic interpretation. A drama group could bring the Gospel to life, highlighting the different actions mentioned by Jesus, and perhaps even suggesting examples of how these actions are or can be achieved by the parish community. (For example, by holding a recycling clothes event, or arranging a food collection for a local homeless shelter.)
Display the Gospel Slides, based on the illustrations by Ellis Nadler, as the Gospel is proclaimed. (These are available as a PowerPoint file at reclaimthefuture.org.uk)
If you’re feeling really daring, why not challenge the congregation to judge themselves. Ask those that consider themselves to be the sheep of the Gospel to move to the right of the church, and those that are self-confessed goats to be on the left. Then invite both groups to think about how they can put into action the words of Jesus.
After the proclamation of the Gospel, consider presenting the following sketch, which interprets the Last Judgement from the perspective of a television news broadcast.
[I couldn't possibly reproduce the whole sketch here, so I've simply taken the parts with my favourite puns - it is puntastic and you know how I like my puns]
News Reporter: This is the Good News. The headlines at six o’clock. Bong! Feeling sheepish? It’s eternal life for the nation’s favourite animal. Bong! Get your goat up! Gruff news for selfish beasts. Bong! It’s the end of the world as we know it. Which side will you end up on?
Larry: Well, Sue, Jesus certainly wasn’t pulling the wool over our eyes. He didn’t mince his words; he told us quite clearly that we had to do good things for one another.
Larry: Well, they’d flocked to see him – it was so busy you couldn’t see past your own little space. The crowd were pretty divided really. I have to say that some of the goats looked a little sheepish, funnily enough.
Larry: Oh, he was mint. Source of all wisdom, isn’t he? He told them quite plainly that what they failed to do for others they failed to do to him.
Sue: I bet the goats didn’t like that.
Larry: No, Sue, they were baaa-rking mad. Especially when he told them they’d be for the chop.
Preparation of the Gifts
The gifts of bread and wine are presented at the altar: gifts that are used the Gifts in the celebration of the Eucharist. There are many opportunities for enhancing this part of the Mass:
For example, you may wish to present other ‘gifts’ to the Lord, too, representing the life, energy and commitment of young people in the parish.
Gifts that symbolise the Reclaim the Future! theme could be presented. For example: a globe, energy saving lightbulbs, recycling containers, fairly traded goods, pictures of people from different parts of the global community, and so on.
If you have invited the congregation to make livesimply promises or Reclaim the Future! commitment pledges, these could be presented too.
A simple, but highly effective way to present the gifts, is to use dance or movement.
Young people could be invited to ‘dress’ the altar. You could, for example, ask a group to prepare an altar cloth or frontal, based on the livesimply message or the Reclaim the Future! poster. People could also present flowers and candles, as well as the other items that are needed for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Next up we have Get Crafty for National Youth Sunday...
Have a go at making a vestment for your priest to wear for Mass. A chasuble is very easy to make as it is basically an oval with a hole in it and stole is just two strips of material sewn together.
You can just imagine how impressed all the teenagers will be...
Looking at the photo, I don't feel excluded at all.
Of course, it's one thing to take pot shots at liturgical shenanigans and make fun of priests in silly costumes. It's quite another to deal with the theology of the thing.
Under Going Further you will find a document entitled 'Theology of Sustainability'. This document contains the words 'Gandhi' and 'Ghandi' but not the words 'Christ' or 'Jesus'.
It also references a book 'The Human Story of God' by a chap named Edward Schillebeeckx who has regularly been accused of denying the divinity of Christ.
All of the above is being funded by the Catholic Bishop's Conference of England and Wales. The Bishop of Lancaster recently wrote...
"We have talked too much and done too little. We have witnessed over the past forty years a growing crisis in the Catholic understanding or self-identity of the Church...Have we forgotten what it is to be Catholic?"
Answer is Yes.
The lunatics really are are running the asylum.