9 Churches, 1 Mission: A Story from the UK

“We give Him all of the finite and He gives us the infinite.”
- Father Michael Doyle

Jacqueline Marie | July 11, 2022

Father Michael, Parish Priest of All Saints Parish (Newport, Wales), is nothing if not inventive.

When COVID lockdown rules prohibited people coming into the church, he set up drive through confessions in the car park. In the same time period he found grants to renovate the old church hall into a beautiful new kitchen and meeting space. And when faced with the enormous job of shepherding nine churches in one parish he sought DR coaching.

“We’re in the unenviable situation where we’re one parish but nine locations. So, I’m the pastor to nine churches and I’ve got some two assistant priests, two associates, here with me.”

A friend from seminary who was on the DR journey gave Father Michael the book, Divine Renovation: Moving from a Maintenance to a Missional Parish. “I exactly agreed with the book and then DR19 came around in Birmingham and my friend was going with his SLT and they invited me to join them.”

Once there he “thought I’m going to hate this…This is going to be taking me so far out of my comfort zone.” Instead, he found he was drawn into what Father James Mallon was saying, and it started him on a relationship with DR.

From L-R: Father Michael with Father Laurence talking to the newly installed Archbishop of Cardiff, Most Rev. Mark O’Toole.

After the session, Father Michael wanted to thank Father James Mallon, “And he [Father James] wanted to know about the parish, so I told him [that I had 9 churches] and Father James put his head in his hands, and shook his head.”

Despite the enormity of the task, Father Michael is set on moving his parish into mission. He has gone through group coaching and is now in one to one coaching with DR Leadership Coach Rob McDowell.

This past spring his parish ran their first Alpha.

To prepare, he, associate priest Father Laurence and a few parishioners shadowed an online Alpha at St. Anthony’s in Forest Gate, London.

The newly renovated hall at St. Mary’s Church, the city centre location of All Saints Parish, served as the perfect location for Alpha – bringing parishioners together, regardless of what church community they were based out of.

Marina, one of the parishioners who joined Father Michael in the online Alpha at Forest Gate, led the team.  She states: “I think we were quite nervous probably the first week, but really quickly we settled into a really nice groove, and I think we’re all quite excited from week to week then, rather than nervous.” Father Michael adds, “The first week was quite interesting, because of course, it was the first time the new kitchen had been put to the test as well, and the electrics kept tripping every 15 minutes!”

The Alpha started with 12 participants and grew to 15.

Alpha food preparation in the newly renovated kitchen

Father Michael was able to empower Marina’s team: “I tried to stay back as much as possible just to let them get on with it and… I’ve been blessed really with Marina taking point on Alpha and the team that she’s had around her.”

Marina responds, “actually, I think the balance is right… I think Father, you kind of stepping back that little bit, just enabled us to grow and make that connection.” She continues “most rewarding I think was probably just the…discussion and meeting and joining in faith in the way that we did … those relationships I think will continue on into the next Alpha.” Father Michael adds the participants “were all hankering to go deeper.”

Looking forward, Marina hopes to continue “the kind of spirit that it’s had in this first Alpha, that that kind of positivity and the excitement that the team had, continues to kind of endure and grow so that it does flourish and can carry on.”

“It just needs to become a normal part of parish life, really,” explains Father Michael.

Overall, Father Michael hopes for his parish to have “more openness to the to the Holy Spirit… for hearts to be opened…for the next season of Alpha for the Holy Spirit to bring people to us. Because we love them, and we want them to come in.”

All Saints Parish’s next Alpha will be starting in September.