Becoming a Mission-Motivated Parish

Moving from ‘Maintenance to Mission’ at the parish of the Good Shepherd, Nottingham.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Moving from ‘Maintenance to Mission’ at the parish of the Good Shepherd, Nottingham.

Across the diocese, it is Bishop Patrick’s hope and prayer that we become a community of missionary disciples. The Synodal discussions and the ‘Restructuring for Mission’ Roadshows that have been taking place across the diocese these last 12 months, have highlighted the pressing need for our parishes and communities to become more mission focused. In Evangelli Gaudium, Pope Francis dreams of a ‘missionary option’, that is, ‘a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self preservation’ (at 27). He sees the parish as being central to this great task of evangelisation.  

One of the ways in which parishes in the Diocese of Nottingham are being supported to respond to this call to become more missionary is through collaboration with the Divine Renovation network. Divine Renovation has been working with a number of parishes and priests from across the diocese, supporting them to move from ‘maintenance to mission’. One of those parishes is Good Shepherd in Nottingham and we took some time to speak with Frasers Sanders, a young man on the parish leadership team, to find out more.  

How did you get involved in your parish journey towards being more missionary?  

Last year Bishop Patrick asked Fr Philipp, our parish priest, to become one of the first priests in the diocese to join a Divine Renovation ‘Kickstart’ course (a coaching programme for Priests). Fr Philipp wanted the laity to develop a vision for the parish’s future and to help make that a reality. At this point I had read Divine Renovation and felt called to help my home parish push forwards in its hope of having mission at its heart and to becoming more outward looking.

What do you think motivated you and fellow parishioners to get behind this drive to be more missionary?  

I think for us, our move to become more missionary was born out of a desire to bring more people into a personal relationship with Jesus. We wanted to give all of our community the chancer to encounter Jesus Christ afresh or maybe even for the first time. We hoped that in encouraging people to follow Jesus we might also encourage more vocations. On a practical note, we also wanted to try and remove some of the burden on Fr Philipp. Our priests are a blessing but our parishes are getting bigger, the need for the laity to become more engaged and taking responsibility for their parish is only going to increase. By doing this, Fr Philipp has been able to spend more time engaged in sacramental ministry and the laity have been about to use their skills.  

What has been the highlight of the last year for you, as you embarked on this journey?  

Seeing visible changes in our parish community has been a joy for me. When we ran our first Alpha course, we got to see lives changed and more people encounter Jesus. We recently hosted a Divine Renovation ‘Connect’ event and it gave us the chance to showcase what our parish has been doing over the past year. For me personally, being more missionary as a Church is something I have felt strongly about and I have prayed that we would adopt such a outlook. To start to see that take shape and bear fruit, even in these early days, is wonderful!!

What are your hopes or plans for the coming academic year?  

As part of our vision, we have two main aims for the year ahead, focusing on liturgy and communications. Firstly, we want to focus on how we celebrate the sacred liturgy. We have developed a parish calendar with key feast days, starting with the feast of St Gregory on 3rd September. Central to this will be a monthly family Mass followed by a community brunch. Secondly, we are aiming to rejuvenate our digital ministry, with a new website and better use of our social media so that we more effectively reach out to the wider community.  

How is the parish vision and leadership team developing?  

Firstly, Fr Philipp asked a group of people with different skills to join the parish pastoral team. This team has individual responsibilities for different areas of parish life, such as youth and evangelisation. This group coordinates these areas, allowing Fr Philipp to be as active as possible. There is also the newly formed leadership team which is working closely with Fr Philipp to develop our parish vision for the future.  

Have you met any challenges this last year?

Lots of them! Changes can be difficult to manage, especially when lots of them are happening at once. As we have begun to look more closely at various areas of parish life, it has also made us appreciate how complex our parish really is! That said, this has also been a joy as it has allowed us to tap into the skills and talents of our parish community.  

What would you say to other parishes thinking of doing similar?

DO IT! There is no time like the present! Speak to your parish priest, ask him if he’s aware of Divine Renovation and get him involved in a kickstart course. Speak to parishes in your deanery and see if there is anywhere you can work together. Have a look at what your parish offers already, perhaps you can develop it to make it more missionary in its outlook or you might be able to offer something new, if you see a gap. Most of all, don’t get disheartened! There will be challenges but remember that in becoming more missionary as a parish, more people in your parish will come to know and love Jesus more deeply, and there really is no greater joy!

For more information on Divine Renovation, check out here:  

To read more about getting involved in ‘Kickstart’ in the Diocese, see here:  

If your parish community wants support or advice in forming adults for mission, contact Joe Hopkins

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