St.Peter’s Community, Hinckley
“The Servant Church”
A programme of adult formation for 2013-2014
“The Church is or should go back to being a community of the people of God. Priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls are at the service of the people of God….” (Pope Francis- September 2013)
“The Servant Church” - Introduction
“The Servant Church” is a new project on the Church. It took the form of three sets of six discussion / conversation evenings on Sundays to reflect on what the meaning of ‘the Church’ is to us and what it means to belong to it. We all know only too well that many people are now drifting away from faith and church life and this is especially upsetting in the “Year of Faith”, which was intended by Pope Benedict to stimulate and invigorate our lives with the Lord and with each other in his family. This is a very sad scenario, particularly for young people, who run the risk of rather aimless, purpose-less lives without some ‘anchor’ to sustain them. We also know that the Church as an institution has been perceived as rather authoritarian, centralised and lacking in compassion and the ‘scandals’ which have come to light in the past few years have served only to shake the faith of good souls, and given the media ample ammunition to beat us with. However, this is not the whole picture. There are many people also who, because of the ministry of Pope Francis, have taken a renewed interest in their life with the Lord within the Church. There are also those who, though they do not formally belong to the Catholic Church themselves, have faithfully come to Mass with their partners and families for years, perhaps without realising that they were in fact Catholics in all but name. This may be the time to ‘take the plunge’ and think seriously about finally accepting the call of Our Lord to fully belong to the Catholic family. There are also a few of our young people who are thinking about ‘confirmation’ of the promises their parents made on their behalf when they were baptised.
So what do we mean when we say ‘the Church’ and how do we picture it and our place within it? 50 years ago, the Vatican Council defined the Church as the ‘people of God’ and there are many who now argue that this definition has never been fully worked out. The spectre of those pre-Vatican 11 dark days of control and centralisation has returned to haunt us, but is being slowly but surely blown away by this wonderful gift to us who is Pope Francis. Recently he said that he aimed to make the Church less ‘Vatican-centric’ and closer to ‘the people of God’ as well as more socially conscious and open to modern culture. He has also emphatically stated that he wishes the Church to be ‘the Church of the poor, for the poor’. His words are at one and the same time a delight and also a huge challenge to us, and this is what we intend to explore together in “The Servant Church”, and hope that many parishioners and friends will come to join us in reflecting on what the future holds for us, our children and grandchildren as members of the Church in the midst of a highly secular world from which we cannot escape into the ‘ghetto of our minds’ as so often happened in the past. None of this detracts from our great respect for our fellow Christians, particularly in the churches of our town, with whom we have such a close relationship and who are ‘on the road’ with us. Any consideration of what we mean by ‘Church’ in the future cannot take place without them, and indeed the vision of the Church of the future will certainly be that of a more united ecumenical community called together by Our Lord to honour and serve Him. In all of this we have so much to give each other, in sharing the ‘lived’ experience of our faith with its challenges and difficulties. No one, in the Pope’s words, is more important that anyone else and the days of the ‘top-down’ Church are certainly gone. We hope that the attached documents from the evenings will be an exciting exploration of what this implies for us and our families and let us pray that this will be a time of great renewal and enthusiasm for everyone.