Friday, February 17, 2012

Communicating

I am very pleased with the Parish Graphic Design Team, alright, it is really Crawf, Clare's husband who is a professional Graphic Designer who succumbs to his wife's feminine wiles and magics us up something pretty good, most of the time he is working on films or tv. I like the posters he has produced for us, especially this one for James MacMillan's talk.

At the beginning of every weekend I go to the back of the church and replace last week's newsletter with the new crop, and I am always rather disappointed by how many are left. Although to be realistic I should be surprised at how many are actually taken. I admit it myself, they are boring, the content is boring, the appearance is boring, they are produced on a photocopier that invariably scrunches up the copies, the reproduction is less than "sharp" and the paper is cheap.

My newsletter is pretty much like any other Church communication. A priest friend says he reads his diocesan newspaper on a Friday because it is a penance. The same could be said of Vatican documents.

A pre-concilliar understanding would identify the Church as a worshipping community and the priest as the offering the Sacrifice of the Mass for the living and the dead, post-VII, amongst other images, the Church is the Herald of the Gospel or the Kingdom, the priest is now ordained "to proclaim the Gospel", and the truth is that in Europe and in the US we have been pretty bad at communicating the Gospel, at catechesis and the spiritual and moral formation of our people and clergy.

Obviously the best way, the most effective way of Evangelisation is by personal witness, and we are rubbish at that but then human beings always have been from the time of the Apostles onwards, yet "God chooses the weak ...". Rightly we are told not prepare our defence when called before kings and governors and yet the last two Popes have urged us to electronic and other media. It seems to me that for an organisation that is concerned about communication, mission, the good news, proclamation, we need to invest in getting our message over.

Our 150th celebrations have made me think about how we convey information, I've just order a new colour printer for the parish and I have been signing cheques to printing companies for posters and handouts, and I have been thinking about how to use people in the parish who have communication skills and how to interact with local news networks - newspapers, radio etc. It is a bit of a learning curve because my own default position like most priests is "no fuss" and "do it is cheaply as possible".

Our diocese is trying to encourage people to get out and knock on doors, in most places that is fine but I'm not convinced that in my parish that that is safe, there are far too many people in multiply occupied houses and far too many people who never open their front door to strangers, the inner city is different, people interact differently than in places where people have their own front door and garden. For us, therefore finding ways of calling or inviting people into the Church is even more important.


9 comments:

pelerin said...

I live three doors away from an Anglican church which is celebrating its centenary this year. A few months ago they appealed for old photos of the parish and now have them on display to the public each Sunday afternoon between 1.30 and 3pm. However I have not yet been to see it and can't say I have noticed hoardes of people going past my window either at that time!

They have just published the second in what will be a series of articles in the local monthly free magazine (I don't know if you have one in your area Father). Their centenary service was attended by the Bishop of Chichester, the mayor Brighton and the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex and is described as having been a 'grand affair.'

There is a big interest in local history here - whenever our local postcard club has a talk with slides on Brighton in the past the hall is usually full and extra chairs have to be brought in. However many of those interested tend to be shy and introverted and would probably not enter a 'strange' church. A magazine article would reach more people and who knows - if it brought just one person into the Church it would be worthwhile.

GOR said...

Well Father the Church and your parish – like all parishes – are not alone when it comes to communication issues. I work for a large newspaper – actually a ‘Communications Company’ - as it owns radio stations, TV stations, Marketing and PR entities as well.

The most frequent complaint I hear from co-workers is that the company is rubbish at communicating – with its own employees! Things happen, changes occur, new procedures are implemented – with little or no advance notice, much less input from employees. It appears we are the ‘cobblers children’ in this respect!

gemoftheocean said...

For about a year and a half period before I left the US I belonged to St. Ann's Parish in San Diego. (You might remember the video of the Running of the Saints?- that was that parish.) A few months before I left to come to England the young parish Associate priest, Fr. Gordon, FSSP, gave a series on practical apologetics which was quite informative. He gave us the benefit of how to interact with people either not of our faith, or of our faith, technically, but who were poorly informed. The parish also sits in a 'not-so-hot-part-of-town' with one of the higher crime rates. (Parishioners, however, came from all over the county - this parish being solely dedicated to the traditional latin Mass.)

At any rate, he gave an excellent series re: the most likely topics to come up, and he gave good practical advice. His over-riding theme was 'know your bible.' He says that while we Catholics know it's 'scripture and tradition' Protestants aren't at that level -- so it's important to approach them with something they can grasp. There are 'long form answers' and 'short form answers' depending on time/place/situation. But the main thing is to be prepared to defend the faith even in casual encounters at work, at a bus stop -- one never knows where a situation may arise. In England, in many respects I think you have a harder task in that perhaps the majority of people aren't active in ANY religion. They may technical be CofE, for instance, but they may well have not darkened the church door since their baptism.

At any rate, I know the parish was *just* starting to do community outreach, when I left. The plan was for teams of two (safety in numbers)to canvass the neighborhood. I think the first effort was meant to gather in the lapsed Catholics, of which there are many.

Does everyone have to go and canvass like this? Well, no. But I bet most of us have been caught in a situation at work, waiting in line at a checkout counter, on public transportation or waiting for the same -- and perhaps something is said that is totally wrong about what the church believes. People should be prepared to defend the faith. [Assuming it's not foolishly imprudent on the given circumstance-and I'm talking about physical safety here.]

gemoftheocean said...

Have you thought about having a youtube channel to highlight parish events? Ditto promoting parish website with photobucket slide shows regards events? How about using QE codes on your posters/flyers as well?
What things can you highlight to the community at large that St. MM does especially well/uniquely that fills a need in the community?

savio said...

Dear Father Blake
Knock on doors?? Frankly it sounds a nice idea - (though maybe unsafe given our times) - but we are Catholics and not Jehovah Witnesses. Remember Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney - you are safe guided by his holy example. Wishing you a blessed and penitential Lent
Savio

Annie said...

savio,

With all due respect, the best role models are the 12 apostles. They were the ones to whom Jesus gave the order, "Go,therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you", and their response needs to be our response for they were the ones who understood exactly what Christ meant. I don't remember any of them closing themselves off from the world, going silent, and thinking that the contemplative life was the way to carry out Our Lord's order to them. This is not to denigrate the great contemplative Saints who play a very noble part in sustaining those doing the evangelizing but make no mistake that it is the apostles who show us the way to convert the world.

epsilon said...

Father - the other day I went on iTunes to find clips of the Rosary in Latin and found instead "Daily Traditional Latin Mass" - "Podcast Description
The traditional rite of Mass... offered daily in Latin from Brighton in the UK."

I downloaded as many as possible for listening on the ipod - but it took ages and all I can hear is a bell ringing and someone sneezing:)

Ideas for evangelisation:

1. All church websites are up-to-date on their Mass times and the latest newsletter

2. A happy clappy new church near me gives a takeaway (paper) goody bag to all attenders every Sunday with a CD and booklets relating to that day's worship.

3. Fr de Malleray every few months takes a group of people around galleries in London to discuss a christian link to certain paintings on a theme. Tomorrow (Saturday 18th February) is very topical (even though it was probably arranged ages ago)

"Art for Souls tour: ‘Sacred Vessels’: Saturday 18 February 2012. We meet inside the main Entrance Hall of the Victoria & Albert Museum at 1.45pm, for start at 2pm. Duration: 1h. Entrance and tour free. All welcome (Catholics and non Catholics alike: bring your friends along and join us for tea at the cafeteria afterwards). Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. Website: www.vam.ac.uk."

georgem said...

May I suggest that, as a small start, you reinstate the link to the church website. If it's already there, I'm missing it. Also that the parish newsletter on the website is up to date (takes cover).

Rabies Theologorum said...

Perhaps an indulgence might appleal to some, and be a good way to celebrate the anniversary of the parish. The following is from the current stautes for indulgences.

65.Visit to the Parochial Church. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who devoutly visit the parochial church either on its titular feast or on the 2nd of August when the indulgence of the "Portiuncula" occurs. In visiting the church IT IS REQUIRED that one Our Father and the Creed be recited. Both indulgences can be acquired either on the day designated above or on some other day designated by the Ordinary (bishop) for the benefit of the faithful. The same indulgences apply to the Cathedral church and, where there is one, to a Co-Cathedral church, even if they are not parochial churches; they apply to quasi-parochial churches also.