Bishop Alan Williams sm has invited lay people within the Diocese of Brentwood to play an important role in shaping its future. Called ‘Stewards of the Gospel’, these volunteers are using their talents to work closely with clergy, parishes and schools as part of the diocesan planning process. Stewards have worked with local clergy and their parishes to assess the resources available in the parish and locally to maximise the opportunities for evangelisation and sacramental provision.
They are encouraging discussion and being an advocate for their fellow parishioners, communicating their ideas, thoughts and concerns to the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group through the director of Development (Steven Webb).
The key tasks for the Stewards of the Gospel were originally expressed to 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.
From the beginning Bishop Alan has been very much in favour of collaboration. He said: “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.”
In steering a course forward together for our common future, we have begun to work together to evangelise our diocese. Stewards and clergy praying and working together with our Bishop and people in our parishes are discerning a common future for us. We will care for one another and exercise the ministry of charity and we will also find new ways for us proclaim the Good News of the Gospel in our diocese. Through this we may bring more people to a relationship with Christ and grow our Church. We are doing this through the connected objectives of Renewal and Restructuring.
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.