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Inspiration and guidance for faith communities

Fr Michael Hurley, an international speaker who has worked in evangelisation for many years, has collaborated with Messenger Publications to publish a new book entitled Inspiring Faith Communities: A Programme of Evangelisation ». He outlines a programme of evangelisation that can provide possibilities and sightlines for individuals, communities and parishes in their search for authentic freedom, renewal, and community.

The central core of the book provides an outline for people to plan, launch and direct the programme in a way that helps participants come to know God’s providence and love amid the contradictions and joys of daily living. In the introduction, Fr Hurley notes:

Inspiring Faith Communities reflects feedback I have received; an increasing focus on parish and evangelisation; and changed emphases on best practices in educating and learning. At the same time, this book has grown from what I have seen works well in local parish and community groups.”

The step-by-step programme of evangelisation outlined is guided by three convictions that act as compass points for the author: that God invites us all to know him personally; that we as Christians are called to reach out and proclaim the goodness of God; and that the parish is an important focus in the renewal process, acting both as a meeting-place and fulcrum for enhanced renewal and community connections.

Referring to understanding the programme in section one of the book, Fr Hurley writes:

“Evangelisation is as old as Christianity. The story of Jesus was passed on through the words and stories of those who had come to follow and believe in him. People did not come to believe in him until they heard of him. ‘And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?’ (Rom 10: 14-15).”

In section two which deals with the programme itself, Fr Hurley provides a format for writing one’s faith story during a group meeting. This includes focusing on an event of most significance, describing what the person was like before it, why it is so significant and the changes the person now notices as a result. Finally, the group is encouraged to renew their baptismal promises at the next meeting which “makes explicit the decision to live as missionary disciples of Jesus and be led by the movement of his Spirit”.

Fr Hurley proposes that the final faith meeting be centred on God’s surprises. He quotes Pope Francis:

“Be careful, if the Church is alive, she must always surprise. To surprise is typical of the living Church. A Church that no longer has the capacity to surprise is a weak, sick and dying Church that must be brought into the emergency room and resuscitated as soon as possible.”

Accompanying the book is a booklet entitled Living Words: Readings and Reflections on the Inspiring Faith Communities Programme » which is a collection of scripture passages and reflections for each day for the duration of the programme. It seeks to help people to pray with the help of the scriptures and to inspire a deeper relationship with Christ.

Beginning the section on daily reflections and personal prayer in section two, Fr Hurley states:

“Prayer creates an atmosphere where life is simplified. In prayer, we bring to God, who is love, the joys and hardships that crowd in upon us. Prayer has many moods: sometimes we are presenting our struggles; at other times we are expressing our gratitude to God for his goodness. Prayer is always a conversation in which we take on a trusting, childlike attitude before God in the certainty of his love and providence.”

In an easy to read style, the book and booklet have all the more relevance today with the impact of Covid-19 urging us to a new depth of interiority and seeking new answers that give meaning and vitality. They will also be of interest to those involved in the cell church movement.

Michael Hurley is a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin and a keen sports participant and supporter. He has had seven very varied diocesan appointments and has been a regular speaker at cell seminars at national and international levels. He has led events in Uganda, Malta, England, Scotland and Florida. His doctoral thesis was on New Evangelisation and the Parish Cell Experience.

Inspiring Faith Communities: A Programme of Evangelisation and its accompanying booklet, Living Words, are published in Ireland and the UK by Messenger Publications. They are priced respectively at €12.95/£11.95 and €4.95/£4.50.