Over the last eighteen months the Nottingham Diocese has piloted the ‘Crossing the Threshold project’ on behalf of the Bishop’s conference of England and Wales. The aim being to reach out to non- church going Catholics by identifying the threshold points in a parish and then using appropriate resources to meet people and welcome them over the threshold and back home.
Five parishes from around the Diocese were invited to set up evangelisation teams. These were: St Pauls, Lenton with St Mary’s Hyson Green; St Barnabas Cathedral; Our Lady of Victories, Market Harborough; Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Bulwell, with the Infant of Prague, Bestwood and St Mary on the Sea with St John Fisher, Grimsby . All teams went through a formation process, prepared the parish to be welcoming , identified threshold areas, made some evangelisation plans and then put them into action. RCIA was an important part of this process. So has it worked? Following are some experiences from the parishes involved, which tell their own story.
St Paul’s, Lenton and St Mary’s Hyson Green is an inner city parish in the poorer area of Nottingham. Vince Bailey a team member on the project said: “At the last Easter vigil nearly 200 people attended which was the biggest vigil we have had in recent years. This was as a result of handing out special invitations as part of the ‘Crossing the Threshold’ project. Three people were baptised and three were confirmed as part of the liturgy and we all had refreshments afterwards. Also at all the Easter services leaflets were handed out for the ‘WHY’ course – a 3 session introduction to the Church. Twelve people attended these, who were new t o t h e Church and the hope is that they may join the next RCIA group which starts in the autumn. What is really great to see is the parish community welcoming new people into the Church. Being part of an evangelising team is not only a joy but also very rewarding.”
Eileen Cordell another member of the team commented: “The important thing about crossing the threshold is that it is embedded in the local parish, it’s not about ‘one size fits all’. It looks at your own situation and helps you to reflect on what could work in the parish you are in. It’s using what you have and building on it, it’s also about ‘doing the little things well’. The other important aspect is the team work, praying together, supporting each other, sharing ideas, allowing the gifts of the team members to be used. It has been a great joy. Then we had the joy of people being received and baptised at Easter was just a delight – what an experience. We are now planning for the autumn and Christmas. “
Another parish involved in the Crossing the Threshold Initiative is St Barnabas Cathedral in central Nottingham. Michael Clifford , a team member said: “Our priorities for the year were: prayer – getting people to pray for the CTT project and giving out prayer cards; Communications – we spent a lot of time meeting with people at various events , and encouraging them to find out more about the faith; running threshold events – having a programme of events were we met people on the threshold which included: a visit of the replica of the Turin shroud and something we hadn’t tried before the ‘night fever’ event. Which is about inviting people off the streets to come into the cathedral and light a candle and say a prayer, it was really successful.”
Each of the parishes undertook different initiatives, but the common outcomes were : all parishes said that Mass attendance had increased, one parish said Mass attendance at Easter had doubled; all have seen people return to the faith; it has helped create a culture of evangelisation in the parish; confidence to do evangelisation has increased amongst the team members. For more information about Crossing the Threshold see the CBCEW website.