In his pastoral letter for the first Sunday of Lent, Bishop Alan Williams sm invited lay people within the Diocese of Brentwood to put themselves forward to play an important role in shaping its future. Called ‘Stewards of the Gospel’, these volunteers will use their talents to work closely with clergy, parishes and schools as part of the diocesan planning process. Appointed in each parish, a Steward will, with local clergy and parishioners, assess the resources available in the parish and locally to maximise the opportunities for evangelisation and sacramental provision. He or she will encourage discussion and be an advocate for their fellow parishioners, communicating their ideas, thoughts and concerns to the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group.
The key tasks for the Stewards of the Gospel will be:
- To examine their own parish, to find out what is going on and to pave the way for a plan for better evangelisation in and by the parish.
- To begin to discern “which parish belongs to which” when it comes to working together in future.
- To be a source of creative inspiration, looking for new ways to evangelise.
- To be the voice of the laity when it comes to discerning the principles and priorities on which future plans will be based.
- To be the voice of the laity when it comes to implementing the agreed principles in the particular local situation of their own parishes.
Bishop Alan is very much in favour of collaboration. He says: “It is ‘our diocese’ not ‘my diocese’. We have to steer a course forward together for our common future and I would much rather do it in dialogue with people than present it as a fait accompli. Hence I want to invite people to discern, together and with me, a way of going forward as Catholic Christians. That discernment involves respectful listening, sharing information, being in tune with the issues and needs of our community and a willingness to be open to God’s will.”
There has been a generous response from lay people in the diocese with only a handful of our 93 parishes not yet represented. The first of six training days for the ‘stewards’ took place on 21 May at the Ursuline Convent School in Brentwood.
Fr Andrew Headon, the Episcopal Vicar for Administration, says: “On behalf of the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group (DSPG), I would like to thank those who have volunteered for their generosity in responding to the invitation. This is an exciting new initiative in which we will journey together to evangelise better the Diocese of Brentwood.”
Bishop Alan Williams talks about the Stewards initiative on BBC Essex, 21st February 2016:
The Role of the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group
The objective of the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group is to formulate a strategy for maximising the opportunities for evangelisation and sacramental provision across the Diocese given the resources available. Membership of the group may change according to the phase of the planning process and the skill sets required. The DSPG will work in close collaboration with parish clergy and the Stewards of the Gospel.
The current membership of the DSPG is: Bishop Alan Williams, Rev Mgr Canon Kevin Hale, VG, Mgr Chris Brooks (Chair), Rev Andrew Headon, Rev Dominic Howarth, Rev Stephen Myers, Rev Philip Denton, Mrs Ann-Marie Conway, Mr Jim Barron, Mr Damian Walsh, Mrs Mary Huntington and Mr Tim Campbell.
Watch excerpts from the first Steward Training Day
Excerpts from the second Steward Training Day
Excerpts from the third Steward Training Day
Excerpts from the fourth Steward Training Day
Excerpts from the fifth Steward Training Day
Excerpts from the sixth Steward Training Day
Stewards of the Gospel Prayer
Merciful Father, author of creation,
your Spirit enriches our world.
Through your Son, who shares our humanity,
you have called us to participate in your divine creativity
and to build the kingdom of God here on earth.
Form us, we pray, as one community
under the leadership of our Bishop Alan,
to serve the people of our Diocese of Brentwood.
Inspire us to discover new ways
to spread the joy of the Gospel.
Open our eyes to see Christ in others,
especially the poor, the sick and the marginalised.
Empower us to be the hands and feet of Christ
in our parishes and communities.
Help us to welcome all into His embrace.
Guide us in our discernment.
Give wisdom to our Stewards of the Gospel
who will help us in each parish
to see new paths of possibility:
for a spirit of mission that invigorates our every effort;
and for the strength to be unafraid of what is new.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.