Moving the Dial on Parish Renewal: A Letter From the UK

Mass at DR Open House Paisley with Bishop John Keenan

"We are now even more convinced that this is the right direction for our parish!"

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce | Dec.8th, 2022

One of the leadership phrases we often use in Divine Renovation is: “we tend to overestimate what we can achieve in one year, and underestimate what can be achieved in three.” When I reflect what God has done in 2022 in parishes throughout the UK, I marvel with some trepidation at what three years might look like! 

We are amid a “change of the ages” which means not just years, but decades, of change ahead of us. Even in five years since Divine Renovation UK began, we see the dial moving on parish renewal. Today we are coaching 90 parishes. Some are several years into their journey: they are like beacons, making visible what is possible in parishes in the UK. 

This year, we shared the stories of the Holy Spirit coming in power at the Alpha Holy Spirit day at St Peter’s Winchester and of Tom Storey’s journey back to the Church through Alpha at St Elizabeth’s Richmond – stories thatgive encouragement to those who are just setting out on the road (such as All Saints, Newport, who recently sprung into their first ever Alpha ) 

Prayer and worship at DR Connect Nottingham

When parish leaders gather in person, encouragement and hope rise: people experience desire for more, conviction to change, and assurance they are not alone. We have seen this  as 275 parish leaders from 65 parishes met together at five in-person events across the country this year. An attendee at one of our events called it, “a ‘lift off’ after Covid” and we completely agree. One attendee said, “We are now even more convinced that this is the right direction for our parish.”  

Fr Jim and Fr David and their SLT’s meet Matt Regitz in Scotland

During a two-week road trip with Matt Regitz this year – one of the most memorable moments of 2022 we realised how much solidarity and strength parish leaders receive from learning from each other. During that trip alone, we met with 290 lay leaders and 52 priests and bishops, and we could see with our own eyes how the dial is moving on parish renewal in this country. You can read more about it here. 

I like to think the Church is being renewed through thousands of conversations where we encourage and build each other up. That’s exactly what Jordan Kelly on our team does every day: one-to-one calls with priests where he hears the everyday triumphs and struggles of the renewal of parishes. (You can book a call with him here). Recently, a priest told us that, “40 years since ordination, this is the first time I’ve had a sense of what I’m doing in my parish, and what evangelisation and discipleship mean.”  

Surrendering more to the Holy Spirit’s work in our parishes gives greater boldness as we focus more on the mission and less on ourselves. This summer, frustrated with the low numbers returning to the parish after Covid, St Bernadette and St John Bosco Parish in Erskine decided to invite the entire community of Erskine to a barbeque. 400 people came, and they have since set themselves the target of growing by 20% a year until 2026. A great example of how, if your vision doesn’t frighten you, it’s probably not from God! You can watch stories of transformation in Fr David Boyd’s priesthood, and of transformation in the parish.   

DR Connect UK September 2022

If you are part of a parish where change is happening, THANK YOU! You are inspiring others more than you will ever know. This year, 1,901 people from around the UK registered for our webinars, and many of these watch from afar, dipping their toes in the waters of parish renewal and seeing if it is for them. Your parish is seen on Heaven and on Earth. Heaven cheers you on, while on earth, leaders watch to learn from you. Nothing goes unnoticed, and we, too, are rooting for you. Come, Holy Spirit! 

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce

Divine Renovation UK Executive Director