The following items are tagged Evangelisation
Blogged by James Preece 1 Year ago...
It's almost seven years now since Ella and I got married... One of the first things we did as a couple was to attempt to found a group to do Evangelisation in Hull. We spent a lot of time visiting priests and asking them what they were doing and what they thought of our ideas and we quickly learned that most of then considered having a Catholic school and a first communion course meant evangelisation was pretty much covered.
We started our little group (there were five of us I think) and met each week to sit in a room somewhere and wonder what to do with ourselves. I like to justify it by telling myself how biblical it all is (upper room and all that) but really we were just a bit rubbish at getting out there and actually doing something.
Fortunately for Hull, we had a visit from the excellent people at the St Patrick's Evangelisation School in Soho who came and took us out to do Street Evangelisation. Not long after that a proper official Hull Evangelisation Team was formed which is a very good thing, the team finds plenty of things to do with itself - starting a Legion of Mary, running Alpha Courses, Open Door (a group for returning lapsed Catholics) and even a bit of street evangelisation... all good things to do. Yet none of them really satisfy the itch we were scratching seven years ago when we started our little group. Whatever it was we felt called to do - it still isn't getting done - and it feels very much my fault.
After seven years I am still not really sure how to "do" evangelisation. Worse still, for the last five years I don't think I've even tried very hard to find out. A few months ago a priest friend of mine said "James, I remember when you used to care about evangelisation" and it hurt. It hurt because it was true.
I mention all this dull history because last week I read a post by Pat Archbold over at The Register which summed up everything I've been doing (or not doing) these last few years and why perhaps I'm finding it all so empty.
I am inadequate not because I do not understand my religion, rather because I am inadequate because I am a complete jerk.
I have one colleague in particular (and he may be reading this for all I know) for whom I am a total failure. Baptized Catholic, he has never really participated in it and is a functioning agnostic. He never misses a chance to inquire/pick on/distort/misrepresent/and misunderstand the Church and her teachings. He sometime seems to relish in picking on me.
What you have to understand is that I really like this guy. He is a good friend of mine and we discuss all kinds of things, not just religion. We agree and disagree on lots o’ stuff. However, it always comes back to religion.
The conversation typically revolves around questions of this sort. “Why does the Pope say you can’t do….” or “If the Church is so holy, why did the Church kill so many people?” or “The Church killed Galileo for proposing Saturn had rings, what do you say to that? Huh?”
But he is just an example. I constantly find myself defending this or that teaching of the Church. Trying to correct this or that false history of the Church. I am trying to evangelize and apologize to somebody who does not even have a grasp on true Catholic teaching, on true Catholic history, or even a reasonable grasp on who Jesus is. I am discussing inside baseball with someone who does not even know what a first baseman’s mitt looks like and why he should be left-handed.
So it was the other day that my friend dropped a question on me. A mutual colleague in Canada some years back had trouble finding a priest to baptize his child while he was still living unmarried with his mother. He posed this question as if it were proof of some great injustice. I asked him, “Shouldn’t the priest have some reasonable assurance that the child will actually be brought up in the faith?” He had a hard time arguing with that, so he let it go. Later, he brought up with our mutual friend a number of “catholic” questions. The mutual friend, who has since married the girl and sends his child to Catholic school, did a reasonably good job of answering his questions. My friend seemed frustrated by what he thought would be a willing Catholic basher.
So he started a whole barrage of silly and unfactual barrages against the Church. You name the cliché, he used it. I think it was the “Catholic Church has trillions of dollars while the world starves,” that put me over the edge.
Frustrated, I blurted out “Man, you are so stupid!”
Now what you need to understand, I have called him stupid a million times, as he has me. It is part of our repertoire. Nevertheless, as soon as the words passed my lips I could see that the reaction this time was different. I could see the hurt in his face and he shut the conversation down soon after.
I knew almost immediately that I blew it. But it took me a while to really understand why. I initially focused on the rudeness of my retort. I probably should not have said that, but heck we talk like that all the time and he has said much worse to me. Why is he so upset? What was so different this time?
And the it dawned on me. Maybe all those myriad stupid gotcha questions were not merely stupid gotcha questions. Maybe this is where his understanding is really at and maybe he is asking me these questions, even if in a challenging way, because he doesn’t accept the clichés either. Maybe in all the stupid little questions he has been asking me, I missed the big questions?
Do I matter? Who is Jesus really? Can he really forgive all I have done? Does God love me? How can God really love me?
I realized then that I am totally prepared to answer the “inside baseball” questions, but I cannot even hear the bigger questions when asked of me. Why does the Church teach this or that? I have answers. When someone is really asking, “Does Jesus really love me? Me?” I call them stupid.
I am not worthy of the name Christian.
I now need to find a way to convince my friend that if Jesus can love and forgive somebody as stupid as me; He can forgive and love anyone.
I've read a lot of apologetics books, I've had a lot of debates and discussions both online and off. If you want to argue about Galileo, the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, condoms in Africa, child sex abuse or any of the other "issues" that people raise - I'm your man. I know loads about that stuff.
But - like Pat, I totally miss the big picture. The people who throw those rocks at the Church are not video game space invaders to be blasted to smithereens - they are human beings with hearts and souls, fears and dreams. The "issues" need answering of course, but they are not nearly so important as the big things.
Not everybody is so bad at this as me. On Friday at youth group Michelle was giving a talk when she had cause to mention a previous talk in which the ten commandments had been listed. She told the youth group how she had noticed that one or two of them looked uncomfortable at the mention of one or two of the commandments and she told them to remember, quite simply, that no matter what they might have done, no matter how bad it might be, there is nothing they can do to stop God loving them and nothing that God cannot forgive.
I hadn't noticed all that because I was too busy thinking that the ten commandments were important. Michelle noticed because she was busy thinking that people are important. Ideas, teachings, reasons, explanations and facts - these things have value only because they lead people to God. That's actual people by the way - not theoretical someday people but the actual real ones I actually meet in my actual life.
So here's my Easter resolution - not to stop with the little things, but to tie them in with the big things. If you don't find out about the big things... what's the point?
Oh... and God loves you.
Blogged by James Preece 1 Year ago...
If you want to understand why the Cathoic Church in England and Wales has done so badly in the last fifty years, you could do worse than to try to answer Richard's question...
We have removed all the signs and symbols from our faith and replaced them with essays and knowledge. Walking in to a church no longer elicits automatic feelings of "oooh, this is important, God is here", our sanctuaries look like warehouses. We are supposed to know it is important because we read it in a book or learned it at a study day.
Just being an ordinary Catholic has become an academic excercise.
Blogged by James Preece 2 Years ago...
In Evangelii Nuntiandi, Paul VI wrote:
"We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church." It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.
The Church "exists in order to evangelize".
If we really understand that, then we will see that everything (and I mean everything) the Church does is an opportunity for Evangelisation.
For example, Pope John Paul II described the family as an "evangelising community". Does that mean my toddler is always walking up to people in the street and explaining that Jesus Christ died for their sins? No. It means that we (try) to live lives that are a "wordless witness" to others. As Paul VI wrote:
Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization.
I don't expect Catholic Voices to go on BBC News 24 and start shouting "praise the lord!" and singing worship songs. I don't expect them to open a Bible and start reading from John chapter 1. I understand and respect the fact that they have to work with the news media and cannot treat it like a paid television commercial. I realise that during a difficult interview it might be very difficult if not impossible to say anything even close to a clear presentation of the gospel message, just as it can be difficult for our family to live a wordless witness to others when we are having a bad day.
But here is what you must never do...
You must never, never, ever say of any part of the world that this "is not the place to evangelise".
To do that makes as much sense as for me to go out in to the street with a piece of chalk and draw a circle on the floor and say "this is not the place to love my wife" or "in this place, we are not a family."
This is what Catholic Voices have done and what Austen Ivereigh is attempting to justify.
They have taken the news media and said "The media is not the place to evangelise". They might as well have taken a piece of chalk, drawn a circle and said "this is not the place to share God's love" or "in this place, we are not the Church".
On their website where it says "Is this an evangelisation initiative?" the answer should not begin "The media is not the place to evangelise", it should begin "Everything the Church does is grounded in Christ who came that we should have life and have it to the full. Therefore Catholic Voices like everything the Church does, cannot help but be at a fundamental level a project of evangelisation."
It doesn't say that of course, because it's not about Jesus Christ or his body the Church.
It is in my opinion, more about making sure nobody says anything on TV that might embarrass Archbishop Vincent Nichols.
Blogged by James Preece 3 Years ago...
A while back I wrote a post on the Young Christian Workers and somebody called Elise has left a comment asking for my thoughts on YCW and evangelisation. I'm not sure I have much to add to my previous blog entry, except to re-emphasise that I definitely think that the YCW are a good thing and I hope to see them do well.
I certainly wouldn't argue with the principle that all acts of charity/kindness can be evangelising. This can be in a practical way (those Christians are very kind, Christianity must be a good thing) but also in another sense... if God is love (and He is), then those who grow in love grow in God. Getting together a group of young people to grow together in love of neighbour is getting them together to grow in love of God.
The problem is that simply gathering a group of people together to grow in love of neighbour is not necessarily evangelisation. Here in Hull for many years the local police have been running a project called lifestyle which I took part in when I was at school and which continues to this day. The basic principle is almost indistinguishable (superficially) from YCW. Young people form lifestyle teams and with only a little adult guidance they have to look around (See) their local community and decide on a project (Judge) which they then carry out (Act). The main difference between Lifestyle and YCW is that in Lifestyle the best project wins a trip to Disneyland in Florida. You can see a list of previous lifestyle winners and if you look at 1994 that's the year I (aged 13) visited an old peoples home a couple of times to play board games with the elderly (we didn't win).
Is there any difference at all between YCW and Lifestyle?
Clearly the answer is yes. The Young Christian Workers are Christian, so when they See they look with the eyes of Christ and see things in light of Christian revelation, when they Judge they discern in terms of Christian morality what is right and what is wrong and when they Act they are acting as members of the Body of Christ.. "Christ has no body but yours..."
But what if the Young Christians who are doing the work are not very well formed Christians? What if the adults guiding them are not very well formed Christians? It's not difficult to see a situation arising in which a YCW becomes indistinguishable from a Lifestyle group. I don't think that's what YCW is all about, but in the prevaling secular culture I think there's a good chance of that happening.
If that sort of group is evangelising, then Humberside Police are evangelising. Quick! Somebody call the National Secular Society!
To emphasise again (and still some people will miss it), I do think the YCW are a good thing. The YCW are putting on courses across the country including one in Hull this September to which I will probably be going.
In the proper Christian context I think they can do a great deal of good. I just think in our diocese we probably don't have the proper Christian context, we have a crisis of spiritual deafness and a culture which is unfavourable to vocations.
Yes, that's harsh, but I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
Every now and then, somebody has the bright idea of closing all the Churches in Hull and building one big one.
It's a stupid idea. The physical presence of our churches around the city is a great witness to the presence of Christ in the World. Not just because the church building shows that there are followers of Christ in the area, but because inside the physical structure of the church, Christ is really present in the tabernacle.
Of course, it's not so good having a Church on every corner if you lock them up, which is why I was so pleased to see this as I cycled by on my way to Work...
If you close this Church...
You can't do this...
Say a Prayer, Light a Candle was started by the Sisters of Mercy at St Wilfrid's and worked so well it has now been adopted here at St Joseph's as well.
I've been really impressed at the numbers of people willing to volunteer to spend an hour in the Church just to keep an eye on things and welcome in anybody who comes in off the street to reassure them that it really is okay to light a candle and to give them a little leaflet of short prayers so they don't have to feel at a loss for something to say. They don't have to say anything.
I've been more impressed still at the numbers of people who have come in off the street. I've been at work, but I've heard reports of a slow but steady flow of people who, if you had to drive to an out of town trading park, would never have seen this...
You can see the numbers of people in the candles (Mary is definitely winning). It's not thousands, but every one of those candles is a person who might not otherwise have had an invitation to prayer today.
It's a small building in a quiet corner of Hull, but here Christ is truly present.
For now, at least, people can see him.
Update: Silly James... there are no Sisters of Mercy at St Wilfrid's. It's the Daughters of Charity. These nuns need to get themselves some more distinctive names! Sisters, Daughters, Cousins of Charity, Mercy... How about The Nuns at St Wilfrid's. There. I can remember that.
I should point out that the reason there's no crucifix on the front of St Joseph's (did you even notice) is that it has been removed for renovation.