By DONAL MUSGRAVE
N 8,000-strong parish in North London Fr. Vincent Rochford, the parish priest of St. John's, Islington, said this week that he had introduced this new approach to parish work because "the Church is suffering from a laity trained to be passively docile by the clergy".
"If the laity is to grow mature," he added "every means of dialogue must be encouraged between them and their priests. They must be treated as adults and not like children." This meant that the people of the parish should have every opportunity to voice their poapriinshions on what went on in the
This process of dialogue and community decision has been in use at Islington since Fr, Rochford became parish priest eight weeks ago. He had previously spent 36 years working in dockland parishes.
To prepare for the introduction of the new Mass rite and the vernacular next Sunday he held a series of weekly meetings open to the whole parish. Problems facing the Vatican Council were explained and members of the parish discussed ways in which the council's decisions and the Instructions of the English Hierarchy could be implemented. "When 1 was thinking of erecting a temporary altar in the church", said Fr. Roehford, "1 drew a diagram on a blackboard and we shuffled the position of the altar until everyone agreed on where it should be -• whatever the unspoken private misgivings. So far we haven't needed to vote on any issue."
At these meetings it was decided to prepare for the changes through a series of six stages, These were as follows:
STAGE 1: From mid-October, Fr. Clifford Howell's Mass Together was used at the first three Masses on Sunday, "This was an effort to break through the 1,000year-old sound barrier in our churches", Fr. Rochford said. STAGE 2: A commentator was introduced so that people would be used to the idea of being led through the Mass. STAGE 3: Mass was said facing the people at a temporary altar. STAGE 4: They were taught the appropriate bodily attitudes to adopt for different parts of the Mass.
STAGS 5: Fuller explanations of the themes of each Mass were given by a reader.
STACIE 6: (D-Day as Fr. Rochford calls it) will be next Sunday, November 29, when the people of Islington will change to the new Mass rite without confusion.
Fr. George 'Curtis. a curate at Islington for the past two years. said of Fr. Rochford's ideas and proposals: "I am immensely pleased with them, Before this it has been a one-man show where each of us did what he pleased.
"There was little consultation or pastoral spirit. Now we spend our nights hanging on door-knockers, meeting the people and hearing their views. It means twice as much work as before hut it's worth it. Now we have teamwork and team spirit.
Parish visiting gets top-priority in Islington. The priests take a
couple of streets each every week and the people are warned beforehand. Fr. Rochford tours the vast multi-racial parish on a push-bike or a 200 Cc, motor bike.
"Although we have just started this idea of dialogue between priests and parishioners, already by working together we have covered 100 years in eight weeks here", Fr. Rochford said. "1 have been astonished at the amount of support". he added.
"My aim is to bring the Mass to the people and to bring the people into the action of the Mass", he said. "The Church's new thinking is exciting. and 1 want it shared in my parish."
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