Organiser, Rebecca Bretherton, from the Department of Evangelisation, opened the workshop by speaking about creating welcoming churches and gave examples from St Lucia to East Anglia.
“Welcoming is really difficult,” she said. “We need to think about who is coming to church, who we are welcoming. There is a difference between inviting people to church and then making them welcome when they turn up.”
Fr Sean Connolly, Vicar of New Evangelisation, spoke about the theology of welcoming, drawing on his previous experience of working in McDonalds, which has a welcoming culture.
“But our welcoming needs to be deeper than a sales pitch,” said Fr Sean. “It needs to be thought through and engaging.
“We should welcome as Christ welcomes us (Romans 15v7). The warmth of our welcome show the weight of God’s presence, or glory, on our parish community.
“Welcoming is the responsibility of everyone in the parish, not just the welcomers or the priest,” said Fr Sean.
After a buffet lunch, the Diocese Ignite youth mission team, led by Matt Rennie, spoke about the value and place of personal testimony in evangelisation. They also gave a dramatic representation of the right and wrong way to go about doing this.
Matt said: “We all have a story to tell and a role to play in spreading the good news and are all called to share our faith in some way.
“Consider that you may possibly be the only Jesus that some people will ever meet.”
Team member, Judith Turner, spoke about preparing your own short personal testimony for when the occasion arises to tell it: “Let your life be your story and your experience of God be your testimony,” she said.
Fellow team member Clare Storey, said that we are all called to evangelise but offered a word of caution: “People will not listen to what you say unless you show that you care about them.”
Afterwards, Rebecca said: “We make sure that we root everything we do in prayer. This is really important, for all sorts of reasons. We pray for the Holy Spirit to give us courage, inspiration and sometimes patience. Prayer helps us remember that our work is not about us. That’s why we always have a Mass and lots of prayer intervals at these events to show people they need to build it into their parish planning.”
Immediate feedback from the event was also encouraging said Rebecca and comments included:
“The ignite team are truly inspirational”
“I’ve started to think how I can share my faith – bring Jesus – to the people I meet in my daily life.”
“Sharing my faith isn’t always easy. The day has given me lots of practical ideas to use and to discuss in my parish.”
The event was the third in a New Evangelisation series and throughout the day delegates had the opportunity to talk in small groups about the experience in their own parishes and also share their own personal story with another person.
Pictured from the top, delegates during the workshop, Rebecca Bretherton giving a presentation and Clare Storey and Judith Turner from the Ignite team.