The programme takes parishioners on a journey of reflection over three consecutive weekend Masses. Two of the central questions posed by the programme are: ‘What is Stewardship?’ and ‘What does my parish mean to me?’ Information is shared with parishioners on the financial and volunteering situation within their parish, with everyone encouraged to learn more about how they can share of their time, talents and treasure to help support their parish.
It has now run in Ipswich St Mary, Felixstowe, Peterborough All Souls, King’s Lynn, Woodbridge, Poringland and Stowmarket. More parishes are looking to run the programme in late spring or early summer. All materials, and support to facilitate the running of the programme, is provided to parishes by the Diocese.
The programme recognises that each parish is unique, and the transparency of information shared is something many parishioners find really useful. The programme is flexible enough to allow each parish to tailor the materials to suit its unique needs – for example, it is going to be used by some parishes to ask parishioners to reflect, now that we are slowly exiting the lockdown effects of Covid, on what their parish means to them and importantly what their role in it can be. Part of the process encourages parishioners to consider what talents and gifts they have been given by God and how they can best use these within their parish.
Each parish communicates the various volunteer roles it has to offer by means of the programme materials. These roles vary enormously from parish to parish – for example, some parishes may need help with the running of a foodbank or visiting and transporting the housebound, whilst others may need help with liturgical or health and safety roles. There is also the opportunity for parishioners to let the parish team know what additional gifts they have to offer their parish. Part of the work involves sharing material with each Parish Finance Committee on legacy giving – an area of fundraising that is predicted to grow exponentially over the coming years.
After successfully running the programme, some parishes have decided that an annual reflection day will be a useful addition to the parish calendar, allowing people to review, renew or adjust their giving of time, talents and treasure and for any new parishioners to be able to volunteer their time or talents.
Here are the highlights from just some of the parishes who have run it:
The programme is being co-ordinated by Sandra Portas, and the next set of parishes scheduled to take part (some of which Sandra has already started to work with) are Cambridge St Laurence, Cambridge St Philip Howard, St Neots, Norwich St Georges, Newmarket, Peterborough Sacred Heart and St Oswald, Lowestoft, Ely, Wymondham, Diss, Great Yarmouth, Swaffham, East Dereham, Brandon and Mildenhall, Thetford and Lynford, Hunstanton, Downham Market and Ipswich St James.
Pictured above is Fr Simon Leworthy and the rest of the Stowmarket team who ran the programme in February. Left to right are Jo Lea, Simon Millyard and Gillian Millyard.