The Gatherings Group

The Gatherings Group

Following the Bishop, Paul Martin’s 9 June on-screen Proposal to close 13 of our 20 remaining churches, we were engaged with a single 2-hour question and answer session in 5 areas of the diocese and then a closed-form submission process.

The Gatherings Group proposed an alternative – the Good Plan. We held 3 Gatherings. Over 100 people from throughout the diocese attended, with over 300 on our e-mail list. Then folk from the Gatherings Group had 2 meetings at Sacred Heart Addington, with members of the Bishop’s team and the College of Consulters.

We agreed on a dedication to and expansion of adult education, full laity involvement in ministry and administration including lay-led liturgies, in the absence of a priest, with trained lay ministers. We also agreed regarding priests living in community near church and community buildings, supporting, with lay ministers, a hub of smaller churches.

The 9 June Proposal was originally developed inside the old clerical priest based model of church. This resulted in suggestions to amalgamate parishes and close churches.

Our areas of disagreement arise in the notions implicit in the 9 June Proposal – that our 17 precious Primary School – Church relationships are dispensable, and that our current fully-functioning diverse Catholic Church Communities are disposable. We also feel insufficient weight has been given to a properly facilitated process with all parishioners, which would discern the spiritual, social and financial robustness or otherwise of the 9 June proposal and/or the Good Plan or a third alternative.

We see the relationship between our 17 primary schools and their community churches, as precious, fragile and the first steps for many young people and their children into our adult Church communities. We do understand there is a need to address low attendance and “churches vacant from Mon-Sat”. This then becomes the Mission – to train skilled, community including, religious and lay ministers in every parish in the diocese. This precious relationship needs to be tended and expanded, not derailed and made difficult.

Diversity of peoples, buildings and liturgies are a hallmark of NZ Catholicism. Only 20 of our 30 churches survived the Christchurch earthquakes. Diverse buildings, small and large, are essential to sustainability and survivability. We need to retain and engage with our diversity rather than to contract into 5 expensive, identikit 600 seat church community buildings, (similar to the local Baptist model) where the dangers of a single “leader” and a “one size fits all” theology, emerging, are inherent.

Vatican II documents that, the baptised, the people of God, both laity and religious, be fully involved in initiation of, creation of, and decision-making concerning spiritual well-being, liturgy, finance and church buildings.

We request that the Bishop’s team consider and explore The Good Plan in-depth as a real alternative to the 9 June proposal and that the current process be re-examined with a listening ear and an openness to change on everyone’s part, in two 3 hour, or three 2 hour long professionally facilitated hui open to all, lay and religious, with Bishop Paul Martin, the Bishop’s team and the Council of Consulters, on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 November.

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