ORGANISERS of the Renew parish programme in the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton are expecting between ten and 16 thousand people to attend Renew's official launch at Brighton and Hove Albion football ground, Brighton on Sunday.
"We want to rejuvenate the old idea of the parish day out", said Fr Kevin McHugh, coordinator of the Renew programme. "We want to prize people out of their BMWs and into a parish charabanc. The idea is not only to launch Renew, but to give parishioners a chance to celebrate their Catholicity".
Renew, which comes originally from the States and which is being used in 120 dioceses in 11 countries, is a scripture-based programme aimed at encouraging people to better get to know the faith. When its introduction was first mooted by diocesan authorities there was some apprehension among clergy as to its evangelical overtones.
"Renew is not evangelical in the sense of hot-gospelling fundamentalism", said Fr McHugh. "It is evangelising, however, in the sense that it intends to spread the gospel". Fr Mc Hugh pointed out that on Renew's "sign up Sunday" two weeks ago, when parishes pledged themselves to follow Renew, the response indicated that many had got over their misgivings.
"Renew offers a systematised programme over five seasons which works in every parish in the diocese". said Bishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor of Arundel and Brighton. "Based on prayer, sharing and scripture, Renew binds people together in the way they live their Catholic lives. It is not a catechetical programme, but a spiritual one".
"Most dioceses are assessing the way in which they try to live out the life of the Church.Renew for Arundel and Brighton is a means of doing this", said the bishop.
"Usually when a new parish initiative comes along there is about a ten per cent response rate among parishioners", said Fr McHugh. "Many priests think that they know their parishes. I think that the overwhelming response to Renew has proved in certain cases that this may not have been so. Many priests have been shocked at how the affair has been taken out of the hands".