7 Quick Takes on American evangelists, joke-practising, and lazy Sundays
Such a busy couple of weeks… Just catching my breath! The non-stop busy-ness found a blissful interlude last weekend in an utterly contented Sunday with my sister, brother-in-law, little nephew, and some really good friends. Mass, good food, lots of laughter, autumnal walk… what more could you want on a Sunday? Somehow, working all hours of the day for the rest of the week makes you appreciate Sundays like this even more. This day has certainly been carrying us through this week… which is how it should be with Sundays, right?!
We had the great joy of welcoming Meg Hunter Kilmer to Portsmouth last week. A friend of mine heard she was coming to England, and told me to jump on the bandwagon… so I did! Another friend in London said we were in for “a real treat” and she was not exaggerating… Meg was passionate, convicted, and truly inspiring. I know of a number of special graces which came from her talk here in Portsmouth. A week before, I had been wondering whether I had taken too much on (which is a thought that goes through my head at least a few times each day) but when she was here, was so glad I’d gone for it! God is sheer goodness, and he blessed us through Meg.
And, here was her Facebook update the day she was with us: “I spent half an hour yesterday talking with Bishop Philip Egan about evangelization. What a godly man! I’d seriously consider moving to Portsmouth just so he could be my bishop. Say a prayer for him and his diocese, will you?” How cool?!
Last weekend, we ran our very first Called & Gifted workshop with the diocesan teaching team. What a wonderful experience! I tell you, since last June, the fourteen of us have been holding gruelling practice teaching sessions, learning all the module material, telling people our jokes over and over again in an insufferable fashion (well, maybe that’s just me…) And on Friday and Saturday we actually did it live for the first time! It was a real joy to share with people this material ourselves… even perhaps if we have a long way to go to be anywhere like Sherry… One participant said, “Many thanks for such a stimulating and enjoyable Holy Spirit workshop. You must all have put in a lot of preparation to produce such an amazingly polished presentation.” And I was particular gratified to read, “Your sense of humour was also appreciated.” The joke-practising paid off!
A weekly joy for me at the moment is the Bible Timeline. Seriously, I would run this course just for my own benefit – it is so good! Throughout my life and studies, I have read a lot of the Bible, but what is unique about this programme is the integration of the Bible with the Catechism, and then with our own daily life. Every week, our small groups are having seriously lively discussions (which could go on and on) and – coupled with Jeff Cavins’ teaching where, week after week, we’re being challenged to live more faithfully – it makes a potent mix. The other irresistible element is the sense of joy and community each week, of people not wanting to leave at the end of the night, despite having done two hours’ Bible Study. This is a truly wonderful tool for new evangelisation and if you haven’t yet done it – put it on in your parish, soon!
As I’ve mentioned before, at the end of each of our enquiry sessions, we have a ten-minute testimony from someone in the parish. It would not be an over-statement to say that these have been raised the enquiry sessions to a whole new level. When someone shares their story, very truthfully, they make themselves vulnerable and the enquirers sense that. You could hear a pin drop during some of these testimonies. Most of them are not particularly dramatic. People are being honest about their lives – about when they were far from God in their hearts, and what Christ did to draw them back into relationship with him. I can tell by people’s response and also by the atmosphere these testimonies create that people are moved and go away thinking… Definitely worth including in your enquiry period!
What else is working well in enquiry? This week, I sensed a real buzz among people… They are beginning to get to know each other, they are more confident in how things work, there is much more laughter and joking. We have around 13 people more or less. What works well? Whoever is leading the session begins and ends with spontaneous prayer. This is a wonderful way of modelling to people how we speak to God – simply, humbly, with honesty.
The other thing that is working splendidly is the video series we are using. I am so excited about this and can’t wait till I can tell you more! At the moment this is somewhat a ‘pilot’ – the videos aren’t even completely edited. But what I can say is that this is an extremely exciting new series of evangelisation – in the true sense. Not heavy in catechesis, helping people ask the big questions, effective in getting them talking, proclaiming the Gospel message clearly and simply.
The last thing that works well is that the session is limited to one hour only. When we move to the Catechumenate, we’ll have one-and-a-half-hour sessions as the teaching will be deeper and more rigorous. Right now, we’re helping people dip their toes in. After an hour, people seem to asking, “Is that it?!” and they want to stay longer and chat (which is great!). I think at the enquiry stage, it is great to leave people wanting more, rather than overloading them too quickly.
Whatever you have planned this weekend, have a good one! I have a houseful over for Sunday lunch following the Great South Run… looking forward to it!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!