In the past we have relied on the Sunday Bulletin, and word of mouth and, to find out what was happening in the parish and in the wider domain of the
Diocese and the global church.
The Sunday Bulletin is really no more than a static noticeboard, able to give information but having little opportunity for interaction between parishioners.
The second always has (and continues to have) an element of Chinese Whispers i.e. the story can easily change in the telling and retelling! And unfortunately, word of mouth inevitably misses some people who do need to know.
Consequently, the Advisory Team explored other methods of communication, taking into account the development of internet and digital technology. A decision was then made to establish a website. The rationale for the website was that it needed to be:
• and as a tool of the Parish, it was to be an avenue of transparency.
With a smallish group to get it off the ground, the website took the best part of 12 months to come into existence at Advent 2016; it has now been operating almost 18 months and in that time, we have seen the introduction of a monthly newsletter, to help us keep in touch with our people.
The response to the existence of the website has been both positive and complimentary. We are currently maintaining a mailing list of 1100, which covers all parishioners and school families as well as others choosing to be included. Of these, approximately half do read the web newsletter and others keep abreast by coming back often even without the newsletter. There have also been several compliments paid from parishes outside ours, and even a request to use much of what we have developed as a template for another Melbourne parish.
To date we have a small sense that our website is indeed meeting much of what it set out to do, however while all the rationale points continue to need development, the latter two probably need most work if they are to be truly implemented.
Working backwards –
‘Transparency’ allows for complete, efficient and adequate communication to be given, and this is something that we would all like to see. To this end we will be developing new pages in the coming months which will allow various groups to upload their meeting reports as appropriate. This will be very dependant on the next point as such communication will inevitably rely on the interactive use of the website by others as well as the website team.
‘Interactive’ would imply both a giver and a receiver: a communicator and one being communicated to; one who send out the communication and one who receives, retains and incorporates the message. To date, there have been many messages put out there, both from the parish and parish groups, yet the two-way communication has not been very evident…YET!
One place that interactivity is happening is on the Baptism page. It is rare these days that a family rings to ask for baptism application papers – and even when that happens, all are asked to read the information and to use the forms on the website. It is possible that other forms could be added e.g. school enrolment procedures; marriage papers; stewardship signup and/ or changes; parishioner contact details update. So much to consider!
Also In the current thinking is the need (or not?) for a facebook page, or a parish app, so that we can have instantaneous communication with parishioners. Such immediate communication would certainly help in the case of funeral times (which often impact the weekly mass times). It would also allow reminders for events to be sent in timely fashion, ensuring that people are encouraged to get involved in the various aspects of our community life.
It is hard to place one of the foci above the others, yet we have done just that in starting with communication.
We all know that the church we have grown up in no longer can sustain itself in its current form. Pope Francis is asking for, and leading the way, in forming a church that is a radically different to the church we were formed in. He is not changing the teaching but rather is proposing a new response to the way in which we – you and I – live our lives in faith, within a secular society.
If we are to embrace this new church wholeheartedly, then we too need to make “significant shifts in the way we approach and think about our ministry.”1
Here in this rapidly growing parish, we all know there is the need to make change happen, but nothing will change if only some are committed to effecting change. Imagine - the image of a two way street. There may or may not be a centre line, but there is definitely one lane going in one direction and another in the opposite direction. Think of the two lanes as listening and talking. Then the road comes to an intersection, and in order to change direction, there has to be a respectful relationship between the two lanes – or crash! In order for us to change, we need to get the talking and listening happening, and it needs to happen with respect for all the views and opinions, honestly expressed.
We cannot sustain the Status Quo. We’ve got to change, and for us this change begins with good communication. We won’t always get it right but we will do our best!
1. Cardinal Blaise Cupich in the Von Hugel Lecture 2018, given at Cambridge University on Feb 9, 2018.