7 Quick Takes on embracing January, Called & Gifted, patron saints, and a rather significant birthday…

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So, how’s everyone getting on with January?! Nearly there, people, nearly there… Almost all my friends I’ve spoken to recently have said they’ve bought themselves flowers at least once this month. It’s got to be done. For me, January blues have been stopped in their tracks by Boden’s bright floral colours, and a bit of girly planning on how to inject some spring-time (cheaply) into my wardrobe. I have to say, I love frosty, crisp mornings and the icy walk to work. And one of the best things I’ve done this January (yes, I live a sad life…) is homemade granola. I made this recipe twice, once with chopped dates and once with dried cranberries. It is delicious. You can’t beat it on a cold morning with hot coffee. But, while making the most of January, I’ll be glad when February hits as there are some exciting things to look forward to…

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What a great message!

This is the message…

We did our second Called and Gifted weekend, and this time it was a real hit! I think the first time was okay, but we were all still practising and perhaps not so confident. However, the workshop we did last weekend felt very different. Suddenly, I saw the huge impact that this workshop could have… with us doing it! What I mean is, I’ve known all along how powerful the workshop is when Sherry does it. But, last weekend, I saw the lights going on in people’s faces, had some absolutely wonderful conversations with people… They were really getting it, and understanding how this teaching could transform their lives. One lady said during one session, “So you mean, because we’re baptised, it means when we interact with others we’re standing in the place of Christ?” It was a lovely moment, because it was as if she was speaking out loud what was being processed silently in everyone’s minds. What is amazing is how we were the ones to be the catalyst for this, since we were teaching. It got me incredibly excited about the workshop, and the potential there is… Can’t wait to do the next one.

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I mentioned February promises some excitement… Of course, some of that excitement will be found in the Transformed in Christ catechists’ training 😉 I am getting exciting about this. Already, we have people booked onto the day from Ireland and Cornwall! One of the most important things about training catechists is to model how to teach, and this is what I try to do in the day, especially in the sample session at the beginning. We will be joined by the wonderfully talented Made for Glory who will speak about evangelisation of young people, as well as lead us in worship. Another effective element of the last TIC day was an expert panel to which participants could put any questions they wished about youth ministry and evangelisation. We will repeat this in the day in Kensington. If you are in two minds about coming, don’t hesitate any longer…! Don’t forget to sign up… Every participant needs to book a place. I can’t wait to see you there!

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One school that is taking really seriously evangelisation and discipleship is Worth Abbey School. I was there recently for a day with the chaplaincy team. They dedicated a whole day to reflect on how their chaplaincy could be more evangelising. It was fascinating to hear the discussions and help with the reflection and planning. They were recognising that the older model of chaplaincy (which assumes a basic Christianity in students and provides pastoral support) was no longer effective. There needed to be a more proactive and intentional outreach to invite students into a living relationship with God. After hearing the morning’s reflections, I was invited to give some input from an outsider’s perspective. I abandoned my original plan, and instead outlined the five thresholds of conversion. I suggested that it was vital to ascertain ‘where’ students were in terms of discipleship, and then to provide opportunities to help them cross the next threshold. This provoked some really interesting and practical ideas. All in all, I felt it was a privilege to spend the day with such committed and innovative teachers.

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In the RCIA, we have introduced a few elements to keep everything focussed on discipleship. Twice a term, we are gathering together the enquirers and the Catechumenate for half-an-hour of Adoration at the end of the session. We’ll include worship music, guided prayer, an opportunity for prayer ministry… We are also including socials twice a term for everyone. We had the first one last Thursday, and there was a real buzz as those who have been with us for several months met the new enquirers. Finally, we also introduced an “Encounter Book”. We are encouraging everyone to write down ‘encounters’ with God – whether that be through prayer, new understanding, experience of the liturgy, through another person… We want to collect stories which will travel down through RCIA to encourage and strengthen each person who joins us.

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What else is happening in February? Well, yours truly turns the big 3-0. Quite a momentous occasion, if I may so! I have so, so much to thank God for – the gift of my twenties. It is quite breath-taking to think that, age 20, I was happily studying Theology at Cambridge, blissfully unaware of the great adventure God had in store for me over the next decade. I am so excited to see what the next decade will bring. All I can say is that, when we entrust our lives completely into God’s hands, his goodness is utterly unfailing, new every day.

I’m going to be celebrating with quite a big crowd of friends in an enormous house near the sea. We’re all pretty excited… watch this space!

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Finally, it’s not too late to take a patron saint for 2015! You can do it at www.conversiondiary.com here. I did it the other day, and got St Cajetan. You know what? I was amazed when I read his story. St Cajetan was dismayed in the sixteenth century over the state of the Church. There were large numbers of uneducated people and priests who acted immorally. In response, St Cajetan became involved in the Oratories of the Divine Love, small groups of lay people who encouraged each other in the spiritual life and also took care of the poor. Through this, he met other like-minded priests. In response to the dire situation of the Church, these faithful people didn’t leave it, they knew that the only response was personal conversion and holiness. I was moved by this story… I, too, get dismayed quite easily at the ‘reality’ of life in many parishes, the very small numbers of disciples, and the lack of appetite for evangelisation… So I will take St Cajetan for a patron this year… May he inspire me to respond to the situation with greater generosity and faith!

Enjoy the last week of January, folks!

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