It is not just about buildings – it is about mission


The Archbishop of Wellington cardinal John Dew wants to go further than just combining parishes and reducing the number of church buildings.

He is calling for a more mission-focused church.

In an extended interview, posted on Stuff about two recent memos he has recently circulated, Dew said there should be “fewer conversations about ‘the colour of the walls’ and more time working with those in need around the region”.

In the memos, the archbishop said the archdiocese should be, as Pope Francis says, “a poor church for the poor”.

He asked church members to be “radical” in their thinking and to let go of the “established order” of doing things.

He envisages the unused church buildings being turned into soup kitchens or opened up to the homeless, refugees or the elderly.

“We have got a mission, we are meant to be out there serving the poor, those who are struggling, and give them hope, and caring for the environment.”

He told the interviewer, Tommy Livingston, that he is not fazed by accusations that he is being autocratic and too progressive.

“The reason I am not nervous is that a lot of people in our parishes don’t fully grasp that the church is here to be at the service of the world, not just to be looking inwards.

“I see the potential which is there and I get anxious we are not using what we have to its fullest potential.

“We need to ask how do we continue to involve people and inspire people.”

The Wellington South pastoral council was thinking about the future, chairman Stephen Neal says.

Although they had started implementing changes, he said that did not make it any easier telling people their childhood church may close.

Neal anticipates the proposed changes will have a considerable impact on some people and their sense of identity.

He hopes the parishes will be listened to, and that Dew keeps an open mind on how to move forward.

However, Neal believes the archbishop is right to frame the proposed changes as about far more than buildings.

“I think what Pope Francis is doing is giving the Catholic Church a deeper sense of purpose in turning its focus to the poor and needy.

“John is quite right to frame that current challenge in that context.”


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