In his pastoral letter for the first Sunday of Lent 2016, 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 are:
Summer '17 - The Diocese of Brentwood has published a Draft Working Plan proposing ideas for its future renewal and restructuring. In his foreword to the document, Bishop Alan Williams sm reiterates the challenges facing the church in a changing world and his desire to collaborate and consult with the lay faithful on the difficult decisions to be made. 'With your help and prayers and with confidence in Christ and Mary I am sure that we can find a way to build on the strong foundations of the last 100 years' he says.
Steven Webb, Diocesan Director of Development, has written to the Stewards of all parishes to launch the proposed strategy, which aims to maximise the opportunities for evangelisation and sacramental provision across the diocese, given the resources available during the decades to come.
He says: 'This document explains how we recommend that we move forward together in order to evangelise our diocese, care for one another, exercise the ministry of charity and celebrate the sacraments. It sets out principles for how we could work together to achieve our vision through our objectives and a strategy that combines both renewal and restructuring.'
He asks that all parishioners read and discuss the Draft Working Plan, which will be available on the website and in hard copy form. 'Try to consider what is best for our diocese as a whole rather than just what is best for your parish alone. Please bear in mind that renewal and restructuring are equally important and try to look beyond the obvious possibilities that first spring to mind. There is always more than one way in which we can do things in every location across our wonderful diocese.'
He invites people to be creative with ideas and feed them back to the diocese. 'The framework we are proposing does not necessarily lead to one outcome rather than another. We want people to think how their church might look in their locality. Be bold, be creative and let us know your ideas before we begin to make proposals for individual locations.'
He adds: 'Later in the year we will set out the First Formal Proposals for the Renewal and Restructuring of the Diocese but first we want feedback from you on the strategy and framework we propose in this document': Diocese-of-Brentwood_Working-Together.
Late '17 - We received the promised First Formal Proposals for the Renewal and Restructuring of the Diocese titled 'Working together to evangelise our diocese'.
March '18 - Our draft response to the proposal can be seen here.
April '18 - We received this letter from Steven Webb, the Director of Development at the Diocese. It alters the time line for the Stewards of the Gospel process so that their response to the documents sent in by the parishes is now not due until the end of May. We are expecting a video message from the Bishop in the next week or so - Steven's letter can be found here.
May '18 - We received the bishop's video message.
December '18 - Diocese publishes Vision Document aims to maximise the opportunities for evangelisation and sacramental provision across the diocese, given the resources available in the future. Bishop Alan has recorded a video message to all parishioners.
July '19 - NW Deanery publishes Stewards of the Gospel Newsletter describing a "partnership" between the parishes of the deanery with the aim of planning for the future.
For more information please contact Ken Lowe (Steward of The Gospel, Saffron Walden).