THE Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have unveiled plans to create an “evangelisation team” in every parish. The pioneering initiative to turn some 5000 RC churches into “missionary parishes” was announced at a press conference at the London headquarters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales on Tuesday.
The teams are expected to be up and running by September. They are part of the Proclaim ’15 initiative inspired by Evangelii Gaudium, the 2013 Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, often considered as a blueprint for the “new evangelisation” of the secular West.
The press conference was held just four days before Proclaim ’15 was due to be launched at a National Catholic Evangelisation Conference in Birmingham this weekend, at which the Revd Nicky Gumbel, the Anglican pioneer of the Alpha course, will be among speakers addressing some 850 delegates. The conference will consider dozens of ways in which the evangelisation teams might work most effectively.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the RC Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Bishops’ Conference, said that successful evangelisation would involve Christians’ showing their love for Jesus through the witness of their own lives.
He said there would be no place for proselytising, “doorstepping”, or “cold calling” in an attempt to win converts. “Proselytising is a one-way street,” he said. “It is saying, ‘I have got something you must have and I’m going to make you receive it whether you like it or not.’
“Evangelisation is essentially an invitation . . . which will draw people closer together in their humanity, in their human experience.
“Doorstep evangelisation is impossible without a relationship, and you don’t begin to form a relationship of lasting quality if it stays on a doorstep. What we want is to show something of our own life and to let that speak for itself,” Cardinal Nichols said.
The success of the initiative would not be measured by “quick returns”.
“This is not a managerial exercise to get people into pews,” he said, “but a deep, deep desire to share something immensely precious, immensely life-giving, and very much needed in our world today.”