The meeting started with prayer
As there were several new members we started by going round saying our names and why we were there.
Present were: Brother Hugh SSF, Jeremy Plummer, Tim Higgins, Jenny Owens, Gina Silverman, Richard Brewester, Caroline Ugbo, Denise Yeldham and Paul Bodenham.
Jenny agreed to chair the meeting. We started with looking at the report of the last meeting and matters not covered by the Agenda. Someone mentioned the website which sparked a more general discussion on how we can encourage people to realise that we have an active and interactive role in the world, that it is part of our calling. Many Tertiaries are active but they don’t always see it as part of their Franciscan life.
Within this discussion various points were touched on:
Many people feel that what comes out from Chapter is being told what to do.
There needs to be more attention on doing together and engaging people from there.
The novice notes on work are poor: novices need to be given dignity and a sense of purpose.
The emphasis in our rules of life might have to be changed, as the rule focuses on the personal leading us into a silo mentality.
Reviewing how we are living out our aims before we renew needs to be given more emphasis.
Local group convenors need more support so that their role can become more that of guardian.
The ’99 review emphasised commonality rather than the private but people fear the risks in sharing.
Having the Brothers and Sisters of the First Order to speak inspires people.
Paul Bodenham explained how the General Chapter should work as a stimulant to new ways of being and acting for the Order not as a Conference ‘jolly’. This would need a gestation period of one or two years to work out the practicalities. Hopefully from it would come a clarification of how our calling both baptismal and Franciscan calls us to act within and beyond the community: the why for the what!
Jenny reported on the JPIC weekend at Hilfield and what John Arnold had told us about eccr, particularly about their plans to model good stewardship and investment in 20 churches as an encouragement to others.
Denise gave us an update on the last NCPO meeting which was focused on the WW1 centenary. She told us of various events which were going to take place. Caroline brought up how we might mark the 4th August, the declaration of the start of WW1, or 6th August Hiroshima Memorial Day…or as Tim said Armistice Day. Caroline said she would look out for ideas to mark the day, and maybe focus 31st July Prayers on it. It was noted how much the Government had invested in the 4 year memorial, but with no clarity as to the aim.
It was noted that there are so many seeds of violence in our own lives and culture that we need to recognise. We need to think how we are complicit in what happens around us. How do we use non-violence to deal with the violence in the world?
Br Hugh explained what JPIC Links was and how our membership was valued. The smaller RC congregations value the support they get from meeting together.
Caroline says she has noticed as she goes to speak at Area days the lack of comprehension in some areas as to what JPIC stands for and means. We mulled over changing the name, which doesn’t tally with the word ‘work’ in our Principles; work has a much clearer meaning in a monastic setting. Activity, engagement with God and the world, looking outwards….. We will look at this and what we expect from our Reps next time. Caroline handed out the short ‘instruction’ for Reps drawn up at the first meeting of the Steering Group 3 years ago.
We decided that the idea which was eagerly debated on the 2nd May about choosing a project or theme for a number of years should not be pursued in view of the need to prepare for Chapter. It was noted that there were individuals who are looking for a network of the like-minded. Should this be encouraged rather than making sure the whole order is kept informed and reminded of the active part of their calling?
We returned to the purpose of General Chapter, which had been touched on earlier. Paul explained we need to look at where the Order is and the milestones which have given us our identity. Also do some critical evaluation and see how we may have strayed from our roots (be radical). The words Regain, rename, renew, reorientate are words which came up. Three important strands need to be looked at:
- Reinvigoration so we foster vocation long term.
- Needing to fulfil the aims of the Order: personal to public, contemplation into action, and become a community in mission
- Foster a new relationship between areas and the centre.
There will be representatives from areas and they need to do some homework for one or two years before they can speak from the grassroots.
Personal visits from members of Chapter might help the preparations.
A General Chapter needs to set the agenda for several years so that we become an Order that knows what it is doing.
Maybe We should minimise the institution and return to the movement, learning from the stories of Francis.
For the next time, 20th September: Look at the name, formulate how the Area Reps might encourage others and see what the shape of the network should be.
The meeting ended at 3.05 with the Grace