Proclaim the Good News!
The national conference on evangelisation, Proclaim, was this year held in Brisbane for the first time. The conference, 12-14 July, was a fantastic and inspiring event.
The focus of Proclaim 2018 was Evangelisation and Renewal: how do we as the Church reach out to the world, by renewing our parishes and communities? The conference included several dynamic keynote speakers, as well as panel sessions in which groups of experts tackled tough questions from the delegates. There were also facilitated discussions on four key areas: leadership and culture change, engaging young people, belonging, and parish renewal.
The keynote speakers delivered a series of powerful and challenging messages for the Church in Australia today. In his welcoming address for the conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge used the rescue of the boys trapped in the cave in Thailand as an image to emphasise that our faith is not a morality or a political philosophy, but an experience: the experience of our liberation through Jesus Christ crucified and risen. He called on the delegates, and the whole Church in Australia, to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church as we enter the Preparatory phase for the Plenary Council in 2020, seeking to re-imagine the Church as mystical, missionary, merciful and joyful.
Ron Huntley, from the Divine Renovation parish renewal movement in Canada, provided an inspiring day two keynote on the theme of “Parish Culture Change”. The goal of the Divine Renovation movement is to take parishes “from Maintenance to Mission” by forming disciples who will go on mission to their local communities, using tools such as the well-known Alpha program to bring Jesus Christ to those who do not know him. Ron challenged parishes to a renewal of culture through the rejection of toxic behaviours, and a rediscovery of the joy of the Holy Spirit: “if you’ve got Jesus in your heart, notify your face!”
On the final day of the conference, Karolina Gunsser from Citipointe Church in Brisbane delivered a dynamic presentation on “Integrating Young People” into the Church. She provided some compelling stories of the thousands of young people who have made “decisions for Christ” through Citipointe, and described how the church has nurtured their growth in faith through a process of Engagement, Connection, Service and Discipleship.
A key theme that ran throughout Proclaim 2018 was an emphasis on belonging as a critical part of the life of faith. This matched well with the conference theme, “make your home in me” (John 15:4). It is only through the security that comes from a deep sense of belonging, anchored on a trusting faith in Jesus Christ, that we can reach out effectively to a world that desperately needs to hear the Good News.