Coming back to the desk at the beginning of September is always a mixture of dread and excitement for me: excitement at all the possibilities that beckon and the opportunities for implementing the planning which took up so much time before the break but also dread at the thought of the amount of post and e-mails waiting and that sense of yet another year starting! Last September, following the last RCIA Network Conference, a group of us with a passion for RCIA in dioceses across the North of England, agreed to meet together to see whether we could address a shared feeling of ‘What’s happened to the RCIA?’. There was a general feeling that where good practice had been evident in many areas this was less so now. Fewer people seem to be in touch with the vision and whilst people are still being welcomed into the Church in Easter initiation ceremonies, the journeys they are invited to make towards these are hugely diverse. If we imagine the RCIA as a person and were to ask “Who do you say I am?” would we be prepared for the responses? And so, this group of northern RCIA practitioners decided to pool our resources, work together and have a go at enthusing a new generation with the vision and scope of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
We’ve agreed to offer a day which is visionary and introductory and is for everyone: new teams, experienced but tired catechists, parishioners who have often wondered just what it’s all about. We’re determined to keep it grounded in the ordinariness of human experience – inviting people to tell their stories and witness to “spiritual journeys that vary according to the many forms of God’s grace.” [RCIA 5] We want it to be rooted in experience with a living Word of God that somehow conveys the passion of 1 John 1:
“Something which has existed since the beginning that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands: the Word who is life – this is our subject.”
We asked ourselves questions such as: How do we convey the passion and enthusiasm? How do we do it? How simply can we do this? We identified a large target audience: people with responsibility for RCIA whom we want to be able to see that Yes – we can do this, it is possible; and also those with little or no experience but who’ve heard something! And in working our way through the questions we allowed ourselves the luxury of prayerful, gentle reflection time together during which we broke open the scripture of the day and learned from such figures as Lydia.[Acts 16:11 – 15]
The result is a one-day road show under the banner: R.C.I.A Northern Network called Journey in Faith: Exploring RCIA (The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). The poster states that:
It is an introduction for anyone new to RCIA or for parishes wishing to refresh their team. An opportunity to glimpse a vision of the richness the RCIA journey offers, not only to new comers to the faith, but to the whole parish community. All are Welcome!
We plan four venues between now and May, 2010 with local teams fronting the road show and support from other members of the planning group as required. The first will be in the Archdiocese of Liverpool in November, closely followed by Middlesbrough then Hexham and Newcastle, Hallam and Leeds. It’s an exciting initiative, not least because it is a genuine effort to take seriously the call to work collaboratively across dioceses:
Collaborative ministry begins from a fundamental desire to work together because we are called by the Lord to be a company of disciples, not isolated individuals. [The Sign We Give 1995]