The Catholic Church in England and Wales is turning to the pioneer of the Alpha course to inspire parishes to evangelise.
The Revd Nicky Gumbel, vicar at the Holy Trinity Brompton church in South Kensington, London, is due to address 850 diocesan representatives at Proclaim ’15, a national Catholic evangelisation gathering in Birmingham on Saturday.
The Alpha course is a 10-week introduction to Christianity borne out of the charismatic Evangelical movement and is now used by more Catholic churches worldwide than Anglican ones.
Clare Ward, home mission adviser to the bishops’ conference said Mr Gumbel had been invited to help parishes shift their mentality “from maintenance to mission”.
At a press conference in London on Tuesday Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that this was the moment for parishes to boost their evangelisation efforts because the culture sought something deeper than “British values”.
“Our society is tentatively recognising that it needs something more than the comparative shallow soil of our shared public culture,” he said.
Faith-based values would nurture the solidity and cohesiveness of society, he added, and urged: “As a society we have to learn again how to befriend religiousness.”
He acknowledged that some parishes would prefer the status quo, but said that British-born Catholics should be inspired by the faith of immigrants, whom he said “enormously enriched” parishes.
“The energy of Christians coming to a weary, Western secular culture is giving it new hope. I think it rubs off on us weary Westerners and we should take great heart that we’re discovering again under that impetus some of our own wellsprings,” he explained.
As well as the conference at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Saturday, the Proclaim ’15 initiative aims to provide free small group materials to parishes and to encourage them to hold their own gatherings this autumn.
Parishes are also to be encouraged to establish their own evangelism teams, although Cardinal Nichols on Tuesday stressed that these teams should avoid proselytising.
“Door-stepping, cold calling, things that minimalise the quality of human relationship is not what we do,” he emphasised.