LET'S start moving around. Three weeks ago we were ooking at what the Westminster Archdiocese is planning to do for the Millennium. This week we are taking a look at the plans of Brentwood one of the diocese which are making a particular effort to welcome 2000 in a memorable way.
What, though, is Brentwood Diocese? Its boundaries are very nearly the same as were the boundaries of Essex before the politicians invented Greater London. So, unlike some of our diocese, Brentwood has a sensible shape.
All the same, it has a bit of nearly everything in it: big stretches of East London (nearly one-third of its parishes are in Greater London boroughs) and a fifth of the London commuter belt, but also new towns, ports, popular seaside resorts, lonely marshes (Agatha Christie country) and many many acres of agricultural land. It also contains the southernmost tip of that long belt of Eastern England where Puritanism flourished and Catholics are still few and far between.
So it is a diocese full of variety, and this is reflected in its plans for the Millennium. It has borrowed ideas from the Portsmouth Diocese, which is probably as lively as anyof the diocese in its preparations for the Millennium as you would expect, seeing that its Bishop, Crispian Hollis, is Chairman of the Bishops' Millennium Group. However, Brentwood has adapted what it has borrowed to meet its own particular needs.
As in Portsmouth Diocese, there has been circulated to every parish a resource binder called Towards the new millennium to be kept in an accessible place for use by the parish council or groups of parishioners. ha thisway ideas and information international, national and local, Catholic and ecumenical are most effectively circulated. The binder has been designed so that it can be easily updated and extra material added. A representative of the Diocesan Pastoral Council is responsible for this.
In Westminster what is being visualised is a mission throughout the archdiocese focussing especially on outreach to the lapsed.
INCIDENTALLY, Some priests are asking whether we can say 'All is forgiven' without readmitting people to the sacraments.
On the other hand in Brentwood, because of the striking differences in the needs and resources of the parishes, each parish is planning just how it will celebrate the Millennium. All of them, though, will be collaborating in some major inter-church events. These will include a gathering at Pentecost in Leron Orient football stadium and a pilgrimage to Bradwell, the place from where St Cedd brought Christianity to the East Saxons in the middle of the 7th century.
In May there was a diocesan plenary meeting at which the parishes shared their ideas, and from this emerged a list of the projects already happening or definitely going to happen. These included not only plans for liturgical events and a parish mission but also for a walk of witness, a pilgrimage and a torchlight procession, for a passion play and a mystery play, for a sign outside a church and in a market square, for a beacon that sea-farers will see, and a stained-glass window.
As well as these a number of charitable projects are being planned, including one for the homeless and one for street children in Brazil.
St Mary's, Hornchurch, has already raised £5,000 for a poor parish in Brazil and a group from the parish has visited it; more money is being raised to bring young people from the parish over here in 2000.
In his introductory message in the binder the Bishop of Brentwood, Bishop McMahon, says: "We should unite for as many events as possible with other Christians."
It would seem that there is more inter-church millennial activity in the diocese's rural parts, where Christians of different denominations are much more used to working together than in the London suburbs.
Also there is more collaboration with the local authorities in Millennium projects in the more rural areas. In Dunmow the local authority has taken the initiative in church-civic collaboration.
In the outer-London borough of Havering Christians are working with the civic authorities: a 'garden of peace' is proposed. At the other end of the scale, in the London Borough of Newham, where there is a very sizable Muslim population, things are rather different.
THERE IS a commitment in the borough to promote interfaith relations and some people are hoping joint celebrations will be laid on, but others feel that the Millennium is not exactly the ideal moment for furthering this kind of contact.
In fact, so far no noteworthy Millennium razzles have been planned to take place anywhere in the Islamic world.
In the binder there is an excellent outline of the principles to be found in Tertio Millennia Adveniente and suggestions for action based on these.
One of the principles is 'Bring Christ to those who don't know Him.' As yet this does not seem to have a prominent place in Brentwood's plan for the Millennium... but there are still 18 months left for taking up this challenge.
A nd, as we all know, a great deal can happen in 18 months.