Nicky Gumbel speaks at Proclaim ’15
On 11 July, the Catholic Church in England and Wales hosted Proclaim ’15, the first national evangelisation conference of its kind. 850 delegates filled the Birmingham Rep theatre, including bishops from each of the 22 dioceses of England and Wales. The inspiration for the event was Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium - The Joy of the Gospel.
The theme of Proclaim was ‘building missionary parishes’ and Alpha pioneer Nicky Gumbel was invited to be one of the keynote speakers. Following an opening address by Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Nicky was interviewed about his experience of evangelisation. Nicky spoke about his love for the Catholic Church and the joy that comes from sharing the gospel, saying 'once you see a person encounter Jesus, you want to see it again and again.'
Nicky spoke about the great inspiration that Evangelii Gaudium is to him personally and said that it is not enough to read it once: 'The more you read it, the more you get out of it. I am reading it over and over again and realising how much depth there is to it and how inspiring it is.' He suggested that 'if every Christian in England put Evangelii Gaudium into practice the nation would be transformed and the Church would be revitalized.'
When asked what needs he sees in evangelisation, Nicky replied 'First, we need to reach those with no experience of Church, which is why we keep it simple on Alpha. Then, we need to reconnect with the lapsed. Sometimes for that group of people coming to church is like going to a film half way through. Alpha explains the first half of the film; what it’s all about. It’s about a relationship with Christ. We need to help them to understand what the Christian faith is really about at its heart, all the things that Pope Francis focuses on in Evangelii Gaudium. Lastly, we need to help churchgoers become missionary disciples. We found that with Alpha we mobilised a whole congregation of missionary disciples.'
Nicky said that the parish should be the centre of evangelisation and suggested that if we did not have the parish system we would have to invent it. 'Nobody joins Alpha,' he added. 'They join the local parish, Alpha is just the beginning, there's the rest of the alphabet to get through.'
When asked what the key ingredients to Alpha are, he stressed that friendship is key; 'We’ve just finished our 75th small group. It’s amazing to watch friendships develop in the Alpha small group, with Jesus and with each other.'
The vision cast during the conference was for each of the 5000 Catholic parishes in England & Wales to form a parish evangelisation team. There were plenty of workshops throughout the day and the final keynote was given by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who issued a call for evangelisation focused around the upcoming Year of Mercy: 'The next year of this Proclaim process can be ‘Proclaim Mercy’. We can look at all we are given and see which of these rich gifts helps us to proclaim the mercy of God, not least in response to the cry of the world.'
Looking for a way to proclaim the mercy of Christ during the Year of Mercy? Visit run.alpha.org
You can watch Nicky’s talk at Proclaim on Vimeo here.