Fit For Mission','Response To Draft Proposals From Parish Meeting 29.7.07'

Fit For Mission','Response To Draft Proposals From Parish Meeting 29.7.07'

It is difficult to respond to the draft proposal for the parish of St Nicholas Owen because we have not been given the full picture. We are a constituent parish of the diocese of Lancaster and until we know what is proposed for the diocese as a whole we are unable to see ourselves in a true perspective. We need to know the spread of priests over proposed parishes in the whole territory of the diocese to make a judgement.
We are quite aware of the distance factor in rural Cumbria and should not be thought incapable of making a balanced response to the completed plan. Looking at the list of diocesan priests by date of ordination it would seem that by 2020 rather more than half of those now active will still be in place. This would seem to justify the retention of two priests to serve the area of Thornton Cleveleys, but we are not genuinely being consulted because the facts are being withheld. The Core Group would not seem yet to have a draft proposal for Cumbria. We request therefore that the date for our response be put back until the publication of the scheme for the whole diocese.

We are not convinced that, through merger of parishes, a bigger unit will be more dynamic. Like a village compared to a town a smaller parish is often a stronger community. To continue the analogy, villages are not maintained through families. Incomers fill available property. This is true of a predominantly retirement area like ours. A presumption that the congregation will dwindle would not seem to be valid.

Another indication that the Core Group is shooting in the dark is the hint that we would benefit by an RCIA group - ignoring the fact that we have no suitable meeting place. It is our opinion that the development of our web site, attracting an average of three visits by seven thousand people a month, is potentially a more powerful instrument of evangelisation. The attractiveness of our web site depends on our identity as the parish of St Nicholas Owen. It is information about our titular saint that draws enquirers. If we lose our identity through closure following a merger with Sacred Heart parish we would lose this evangelising potential. We are not apprehensive of a merger - we had the experiencce of being twinned with Sacred Heart for ten years - it is the threat of closure we find disturbing. The strong esprit de corps existing here derives from the pioneer days when the parish gathered for Mass in a parishioner's garage. We are afraid that this would be diluted through closure and the corporate energy would evaporate. In summary we are far from convinced that the Church's mission would be invigorated through closure. The only reason for our acceptance of the diocesan plan would be the need to share the ministry of the limited number of priests available. We require a broader view than the published proposals for the Fylde coast and Preston to acquiesce in the ministry of a single priest for Thornton and Cleveleys where presently there are four.

We consider that it should have been part of the Core Group's brief to explore ways of complementing the number of priests to serve our communities. We are aware that there has been a succession of priests from Africa resident at St John's, Poulton, whilst attending the university at Lancaster. Would it not be possible for the Diocese to offer scholarships to African priests to study here - Preston, Lancaster, Windermere - whilst being contracted to offer Mass on Sundays for communities regulated by a pastoral council under the leadership of a deacon? Might not such a scheme be extended to Poland and Kerala in view of the considerable number of immigrants now working here? The Diocese really needs to demonstrate that it has been imaginative in attempting to remedy the crisis because otherwise it will be open to the suspicion of engineering a sale of properties to fill the hole left by financial mismangement.

We are not rejecting the draft proposal. We are asking for a more adequate presentation and for our response to be deferred until we are given the full picture.