Holidays are over, children back at school and ACTA groups are getting going again around the country. Welcome back to everyone!
The Leadership Team met on Saturday 20th September, taking stock and making plans. We’re looking forward very much to ACTA’s National Conference in Liverpool on October 25th – do come and join in if you can, and bring family and friends too. The speakers are excellent. The discussions and Forum will be open to us all. The Forum will focus on the question “What are the changes needed in parish and diocesan leadership for the shape of the church to come?” Please begin thinking about this vital question in advance – it will enhance your contribution to the Forum – as well as your enjoyment of it!  icon Newsletter September 2014 (622.1 kB)

To book for the conference please e-mail [email protected] and pay on the door or send a cheque to her at Claire Ball, 5 Parkside Mansions, Huyton, Merseyside L36 6FB
Now is the time of year to be ELECTING the people you want to represent your diocesan area on the ACTA National Delegate Council. Each group is free to use their own way of choosing their Diocesan Area Coordinator and National Delegate. Many of you might prefer to leave your team in place until next year. It’s important that everyone is offered a chance to stand and to vote, no matter whether it’s a secret ballot or a simple show of hands.
Inevitably as groups begin, there will be self-appointed leaders, and we are very thankful for those energetic people, but gradually we all need to be subject to elections. Once the new Constitution is in place, hopefully for the NDC meeting in November, we will explain the details that will apply to us all, as ACTA becomes a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (Foundation model).If you’re interested in how that constitution works, you can find out all about it on the website of the Charity Commission.
On a personal note, I will be retiring from my role as Chair of the National Leadership Team after two years in the role. It has been a most enriching experience and I am very grateful to all the wonderful ACTA members who have helped me. Our National Secretary, Kathy Bamber and our National Treasurer, Richard Brooke are also stepping down this autumn. We all owe them a great debt of gratitude for their hard work. More people are needed now to run ACTA collaboratively. We are looking for new Officers.
Please consider putting yourself forward as a Council Delegate and for election by the Council to be an officer of the newly organised ACTA. I’ll be drawing up a description of the Chair’s job shortly to help you make a decision. Richard and Kathy are doing the same. The Chair could be a co-opted member rather than a Delegate. All those details can be sorted out – what we need is some energetic volunteers, please, so that as we all step down in November, ACTA continues to have enthusiasts to keep ACTA expanding and promoting our vital Mission Statement. Please get in touch with me (with no obligation) to discuss taking a leadership role in ACTA and what it involves – [email protected]
ACTA Media Training, run by the Church of England’s communications centre, was taken up by four members yesterday and future opportunities will be available – please get in touch if you would like to help our mission by working with the media, whether for speaking or writing.
Our ACTA project of SURYEYING local Parish Pastoral Councils continues. Please help your local Coordinator or get in touch with the Project leader, Brian Pointer, with any information you have about Parish Councils in your area. [email protected]
Chris McDonnell, Kathy Bamber and I have been writing articles for Catholic newspapers and journals whenever the opportunity arose. One I find particularly inspiring was written by Kathy Bamber for a local publication – and unless you live in that area you’ll not have a chance to read it, so I’m putting it here in the newsletter for you all to enjoy:
March 13th 2013 ‘Rome, we have a problem…’
Such was the absolute silence that fell over the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square that night,that one television station panicked, thinking they had lost the feed. This was that spine tingling moment, when the relatively unknown bishop from‘the ends of the earth’, Jorge Bergoglio, paused on ‘top of the world’, visible to millions that night, and asked for the blessings and prayers of the People of God, ‘over’ him, ‘su di me’.
With the simple human warmth of his greetings, “Buona sera”, and that moment of deep silence and patient humility, Papa Francesco has effectively ‘modelled’ dialogue in the church. And not just in the church but for the whole world, who very soon came to recognise the symptoms of the ‘Francis effect’, where deeds speak as eloquently as his words: good news in action.
In all that has followed since then, it has been easy to forget the heroic humility and clear sighted self-awareness of his own limitations in serving the needs of a church that he loved, that had led Pope Emeritus Benedict to resign. On February 28th, the shockingly newsworthy announcement that the Pope had resigned seemed to be the story, but it proved to be just the headline grabbing fanfare to a much bigger story. Indeed, it merely heralded a new strand in the sometimes tattered but ever renewed fabric of a story that is at least 2000 years old.
Nine months before the news from Rome, seven Catholic priests, led by Fr Derek Reeve from Portsmouth, had made a similar bold gesture by writing a letter to The Tablet, with a plea for dialogue in the church, asking for help in‘the task of creating forums for all the baptised to contribute to the full teaching life of the church’.
In June 2012, the transformative, life giving fruits of the Second Vatican Council seemed to many of us, far from fully harvested. Its documents not fully known or realised, fifty years later. For those of us in Liverpool, old enough to qualify for bus passes, the National Pastoral Congress of 1980 which had taken place here in our city, was becoming a dim memory. Did we remember correctly: did the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales really convene a gathering of 2000 men and women to discuss a variety of difficult issues? What had happened to the insights and hopes for our national church? Were they gathering dust somewhere?
In response to the ‘letter’, 400 men and women, lay, clergy and religious gathered in Heythrop to share, listen and be galvanised. ACTA, A Call to Action, seeking dialogue in the church, was born.
Encouraged by the new climate of creativity and openness fostered by Pope Francis, ACTA groups sprang up throughout the country, committed to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, seeking to give voice again to the views of all members of the church in England and Wales. At gatherings in Leeds in May 2013, and in October in Birmingham, we were reminded of the need to engage in ‘deep listening’; to be creative ‘map makers’ as well as ‘map readers’, if we were to become mature citizens of the kingdom; to seek ‘courageous conversations’ within the church in a spirit of trust and honesty on both sides.
It has not always been plain sailing. ACTA has come in for criticism from some fellow Catholics who fear we are a splinter group, a threat to the faith they seek to ‘protect’; others distrust a group who don’t seem to have a defining issue. Some become impatient: what’s the good of words without actions?
What is true is that ACTA does not see the church as a small chapel of selected followers but as a ‘big tent’ with open doors, in line with the vision of ‘The Joy of the Gospel’. Trying to discern how best we can most usefully serve the church’s needs has occupied much of this year as we approach the third national conference on October 25th at Hope University here in Liverpool, from where the ‘Easter People’ had emerged and then seemed to falter over thirty years ago.
Familiar topics will be addressed in the light of unfamiliar initiatives of the last few months: ‘The Joy of the Gospel~ and onwards ‘ Dr Oonagh O’Brien; Remarriage and the Eucharist~ after the Synod’ Fr Timothy Buckley CSsR; and ‘Justice for Women ~ Reclaiming Theology as Liberation Professor Mary Grey.
And critically, in a keynote ‘forum’ session we shall be asking among other things: what are the changes needed in parish and diocesan leadership for the shape of the church to come? In particular, how to preserve the Catholic congregations threatened by the shortage of ordained ministers?
With such initiatives as ACTA Arundel and Brighton’s organisation of meetings on the theme of a ‘new discipleship’; with the launch in October of the UNITAPES catalogue ~ a joint project of Liverpool Hope University and the Archdiocese of Liverpool to bring some of the greatest theologians of the post Vatican 2 Church to a new online audience; and the extraordinary synod meeting in Rome, there is much to challenge and to cheer this autumn.
‘Rome, we think there is a problem’~ yes, there are many problems, but there are men and women of faith and hope who are eager to participate fully in trying to find solutions.
Kathy Bamber, ACTA National Secretary (acalltoaction.org.uk)
God bless and love, Jean Riordan
September 23rd 2014