It could be you . . .
AT LEAST 400 VOLUNTEERS.
The more eagle-eyed readers of New Directions will have spotted these words in last months FiF Update:
"And finally, in Resolution 2000/10, Frs Robin Ellis and Sam Philpott came up with a simple, practical and very welcome suggestion of "the appointment of a lay parish representative for Forward in Faith, both in our Registered Parishes and, where possible, other parishes also.""
By the time you read this, the College of Regional Deans will have had its annual residential meeting and the task of recruiting a lay representative from each of our parishes will have been delegated to the Regional Deans. They, in turn, will be talking to our Diocesan Chairmen and incumbents of our parishes, in an effort to recruit suitable volunteers.
But we lay people know that our priests are often far too busy to deal with such things. After all, it's not what they were trained for and it's not what we pay them for! So let's just get on with it!
Some parishes already have lay FiF representatives in post. Others don't, but we all know that there is one particular person there who does the task already in some sort of unofficial way. Still more parishes have never given the matter a thought. Some parishes are registered with Forward in Faith, have lots of individual members of FiF amongst the people, and yet still never manage to turn up to Diocesan or National Assemblies, Regional Rallies or even (hard to credit!) to great National Celebrations. Maybe these are the parishes are amongst those which have never given the matter a thought!
So, if you are already an official FiF Parish Representative, please contact your Regional Dean and tell him who you are. Or, if you're one of those unofficial ones, do the same thing. You might want to tell your parish priest that that is what you are doing! And, if your parish has no representative - official or unofficial - talk to the other FiF members, and to your priest, and decide who it is to be. Then tell your Regional Dean. By getting on with this task, we will be saving our priests' time and energy, as well as ensuring that the network is up and running early in the new year.
Now, you'll be asking yourself some obvious questions: What does the job entail? What skills will I need? How much time will it take? Is this just for FiF Registered Parishes?
All that the job entails is to ensure that real contact is maintained between the parishes and the Council of Forward in Faith. Communication is a two-way exercise, of course, so on those occasions when we ask the parishes for something, we'll be looking for a response! Consider one example. This years National Assembly had just 511 delegates registered; had every FiF Parish sent its quota of delegates, that number would have risen to some 850. One of the Parish Representatives' jobs would be to make sure that the parish sent its delegates up to London for the Assembly each year. But communication works in the opposite direction too! We will, from time to time, want to disseminate information to the members. New Directions and Forward! plus provide one means, but sometimes one wants to speak directly to people - to tell them, for example, just what is going on. The Parish Representatives will be the conduit by which we will do that. And consider another example. In your parish, how many opponents of the ordination of women are not members of Forward in Faith? They need to be recruited, for in the months and years ahead, we are going to need more than ever to be able to say to the authorities with confidence just how many thousands of church people we represent. One final example: of those that are members of FiF in your parish, how many have yet to sign a Gift Aid Declaration? In some parishes, we know that the answer to that question is "none" - simply because a Parish Representative has photocopied the form and gone around all the members, getting them signed up.
So the skills are obvious: a commitment to FiF, persistence and a desire to help. On the verge of the twenty-first century, we might dare to say that access to e-mail or a fax machine could help, but they are by no means essential. Membership of one's PCC is perhaps one obvious further attribute but, again, not essential. It will not be an enormously time-consuming task; rather, it will have peaks and troughs.
There are, of course, many parishes out there that aren't registered with Forward in Faith, but which have significant groups of individual members within the congregation. And we, through the Regional Deans, want to hear from you as well. And how large is a "significant group"? Well, turning to our Lord for an example, the answer has to be twelve! If there are a dozen of you in a parish which is not registered with Forward in Faith, choose a representative and contact your Regional Dean.
"What about us?" we hear ten or eleven - or two or three - of you cry in yet more parishes. Don't worry! We will find ways to cover you as well, perhaps on a Deanery basis. Please give us the time to set up the initial network and then we will expand it appropriately.
Having said all that, we have taken the opportunity on page 14 of this edition of New Directions to list the Regional Deans. Their names have not appeared in New Directions for some time and, inevitably, some changes may have gone un-noticed. Let us all work together on this over the next couple of months and be able to reap the fruits of Fr Ellis' and Fr Philpott's vision early in 2001.
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