Spring brings renewal to Bega
Each year Spring brings with it a feeling of renewal, and the Bega Parish has put that into practice with its own Parish renewal.
The process, initiated by Fr Luke Verrell, began with a question a simple question… “where to from here?”
“In this parish… in any parish … there are a lot of likes and dislikes with regard to what we do and how we do it, and sometimes that can look like a clash,” said Fr Luke.
“What we wanted to do as a parish was to move away from personal preferences to a welcoming model, or a missionary model, where the test for our ideas would be if something was welcoming or reaching out to others.”
Armed with that idea and a desire to reactivate and re-engage his parish, Fr Luke contacted Sharon Brewer from the National Centre for Evangelisation who agreed to help commence the process of parish renewal.
The NCE can assist parishes with a range of activities including retreats and workshops, endeavouring not to duplicate services already available from the relevant diocese.
“Fr Luke wanted to move his parish to a different space and part of that was a renewed Parish Pastoral Council,” Sharon Brewer said.
“We respond to requests like this and go where there’s a need, we just ask parishes to check in with their Bishop’s office so that we don’t encroach on diocesan territory.
“From there, we find out what a parish wants… we don’t have a list of one size fits all solutions. Something that works in a city parish may not work in a country one, or an amalgamated one like Bega and Tathra. We tailor what we do to each situation. So Fr Luke and I spent a lot of time on the phone refining what he wanted, what his aims were, what he felt the Parish wanted and what he hoped to achieve.
“After a number of discussions, once we understood his aims for the Parish, and that clarified our approach and guided our suggestions.”
One of the key parts of the process was to underpin it with a relevant piece of scripture. The piece eventually chosen was Matthew 28: 18-20 (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”).
With that set, two sessions were organised for the Bega Parish – the first on Friday August 2 and Saturday August 3 and a subsequent follow up session to nail down and finalise the plan.
“The first weekend was Friday night and all day Saturday of one weekend and that was open to whoever wanted to come,” she said.
“They looked at values and what happens when there’s conflict about the values. We looked at aims, spent a fair bit of time praying and reflecting on why we were doing this, why we should share the gospel and getting back to basics.
“They talked about various issues facing the church today. Then they talked about what a really great parish would look like.”
At the first session, a request was put out to those involved if they’d be willing to be involved in a new Parish Pastoral Council. When Sharon returned for the second session, the new PPC had taken shape. It has now held its first meeting and its members are excited to tackle what lays before them.
“We had the first meeting the other night (September 18), and it was essentially the continuation of what we had worked on with Sharon,” said Fr Luke.
Part of the meeting was to sort through practical matters… expectations of each other, how meetings would be run, when they’d meet, for how long and so on. More significantly, it provided a chance to commit to the Parish’s focus.
“Now the focus is twofold,” Fr Luke said.
“We are looking at those people who only come to Mass irregularly … to baptisms, weddings, school, Christmas and Easter… looking at them as not “slack” Christians but looking at them as people who we need to make welcome. The lost sheep of the parish, so to speak. We want to look at events to welcome them and that’s I guess the real change – not looking at ourselves but opening our arms to those who’ve fallen away.
“So on one hand we’re welcoming and finding out the needs of those on the outer fringes of the Church. But at the same time we’re honouring the values of our longstanding parishioners who have done the good work, day in day out, and who have been carrying the load. It’s important we don’t change everything so much that people would no longer feel at home.”
“None of it is so revolutionary that it doesn’t fit into the already established beliefs and values of our Parish, we’re just enhancing and focusing them.”