On 20th October parishioners assembled in the Holy Ghost church to hear Emeritus Bishop Christopher Budd speak in the “Food for Thought” series. His theme was Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel), but as he explained, this 300 page document is “huge” – not so much in its length (by Vatican standards it is quite short!) but in the thinking it encompasses. It is also very down to earth. Pope Francis urges his priests not to hold themselves apart but to get out and “get the smell of the sheep”. The message is simple: “Evangelisation is a big word for something quite basic – the way we live our lives and the message we give. It is as simple and as complex as that.”
- Speaking about the five Ws of the document (Welcome, Word, Worship, Witness and Welfare) Bishop Budd explained how whilst each theme stood on its own, they were also inextricably linked.
- The Pope’s message is one of welcome – no one should feel excluded, and we must not be gloomy and “permanently Lenten”. The Church is like a mother with open arms, but we are the church – it is we who must open our arms.
- The word refers to the Word of God, but it is not just a book – it is not a question of quoting scripture, but of showing the Word in everything we say and do.
- Worship is not simply the beauty of the Liturgy, and is more than the prayers we speak – worship is living and breathing our faith.
- In Witnessing the challenge is to show how everything we say and do says something about our beliefs, and shows why, as Christians, our take on the world is different.
- If we put these things together, we cannot but be involved in welfare, in caring for those who are oppressed or in need. “Welfare and witness are so intertwined that if you truly witness, you cannot fail to be concerned about welfare, and if you act to improve welfare, you are showing witness.”
In the question and answer session that followed some challenging themes were raised, about sexual orientation, Liberation Theology and the latest discussions in the Synod. Bishop Budd commented that real life is not black and white and does not fit neatly into boxes; people cannot be reduced to labels.
‘Life is messy – but we should rejoice in the messiness, because then we are truly facing up to the challenge of living the Word ‘