Contact us on 07823 788 310 or

Summer Webinar Series: Divine Renovation

From 19th April 2021 on Monday nights we read Fr James Mallon’s Divine Renovation to help answer some of the big questions for our parishes: what is our identity and purpose?  How can we become truly welcoming and open communities?  How do we foster leadership?  Each week the sessions were recorded and posted here, so that you can watch them back, or share them on.

Suitable for everyone, whether you want to delve right in and read Divine Renovation, or just join the conversation and pick up tips!  You don’t have to read the book to get something out of this, but you might find it useful.


Week 1: Remembering our Identity and Purpose with Bishop David Oakley  (Introduction and Chapter 1)

Week 2: Rebuild my house  with Fr David Boyd, St Bernadette’s Parish, Erskine (Chapters 2 and 3)

Week 3: Clearing out the junk  with Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ (Chapter 4)

Week 4: Transforming our parish culture  with Jo Boyce of CJM Music  (Chapter 5)

Week 5: Sacraments as opportunity  with Fr Simon Penhalagon, Director of Mission Northampton (Chapter 6)

Week 6: The Essential Role of Leadership with Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, Executive Director of Divine Renovation UK (Chapter 7)


Week 1: Remembering our Identity and Purpose with Bishop David Oakley (introduction and chapter 1)

What is it about Divine Renovation that gives Bishop David hope?  What are our priorities as we look to the next phase in the life of our parishes?  What practically does mission look like for us in 2021?  All this and more…

Some questions to consider:

  • As we read the introduction with Fr James’ encounters with the card playing parishioners, does this sound familiar?
  • Fr James talks about the church teaching of the last 50 years around evangelisation.  Why do you think this is not better known?
  • On the Great Commission – Fr James talks about the most important part being “make disciples”, and that the Church has not been so strong on this.  Why haven’t we been more switched on to this?
  • Fr James talks about walls around our churches.  How do we sometimes unintentionally exclude people?
  • The chapter mentions that our churches have grown historically through immigration and passing on the faith through the generations, but that our present culture just doesn’t support faith transmission any more.  How do we see the process of ‘making disciples’ happening here in Northampton Diocese?
  • Perhaps in addition to missionary disciples, we need to talk about missionary communities, and even a missionary diocese.  What does this look like?
  • Our session today is titled “Remembering our identity and purpose”.  How would you sum up the identity and purpose of your parish?


Week 2: Rebuild my house  with Fr David Boyd, St Bernadette’s Parish, Erskine (Chapters 2 and 3)

Fr David Boyd is parish priest of St Bernadette’s parish, Erskine.  He writes:

“My current appointment began in 2014 when I became Parish Priest of two parishes in the town of Erskine, St. John Bosco, and St. Bernadette’s.  This was my first experience of ministering in two parishes, as well as being a first for the parishioners, who up until then had a priest in each parish.

Very quickly, I realized that I was working harder and harder, just to stand still or rather, manage the decline.  I knew something had to change but I was at a loss as to know what.  Fortunately, I discovered Fr. James Mallon’s book, Divine Renovation.”

Fr David talks about where the Church’s teaching on mission resonates with his personal experience, what it was like trying to run two parishes in maintenance mode, and the huge difference Divine Renovation has made, both to his parish, and to his own ministry.


These are some of the questions we addressed:

  1. What in the church’s teaching outlined in chapter 2 most appealed to you?
  2. Did the reasons for leaving the Catholic church as outlined in Latin America resonate with you in your Scottish context?
  3. What are the main challenges in our church today?
    1. Both in our ‘maintenance’ mode
    2. And around clericalism and the abuse scandals?
  4. How has DR enabled you to meet these challenges?

Fr David speaks of Alpha as absolutely key to Divine Renovation.  You can find out more about Alpha here, including training for the organising team, and information about running Alpha online:  We also spoke about the power of small groups in a parish.  You can see how small groups run in Fr David’s parish here: can also find out how they run in St Gregory’s parish in our diocese in our parish blog (scroll right down until you find the entry on small groups).

Divine Renovation ran an excellent event called “Reboot your parish” which is well worth a watch:

Finally, we do speak about the very real impact that the sexual abuse scandals have had on many Catholics.  If you would like to talk to someone about this, please contact your parish safeguarding rep, or our diocesan safeguarding office:


Week 3: Clearing out the junk  with Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ (Chapter 4)

Gemma Simmonds is a sister of the Congregation of Jesus.  She is a senior research fellow at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge where she teaches pastoral theology, ecclesiology and Christian spirituality and is director of the Religious Life Institute. She is also chair of trustees of the ecumenical Community of St. Anselm based at Lambeth Palace, London.

An international speaker and lecturer, she is an honorary fellow of Durham University and past president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain.  She has been a missionary in Brazil and a chaplain in the Universities of Cambridge and London as well as a chaplaincy volunteer in Holloway Prison for 25 years.  She is a regular broadcaster on religious matters on the BBC, Radio Maria and other radio and television networks.

In this webinar, we discuss some of the thorny theological issues that have been around in the Church for centuries, and that can hinder us in our faith life, without us even noticing.  Sr Gemma gives a master class on the power of grace, and God in the everyday as we discussed:

  • What is Pelagianism – why is it a heresy and where does it linger today?
  • What is Jansenism – why was their teaching suppressed, and where do we see it today?
  • What is the good news of the Church about grace?
    • What are some healthy and helpful ways of thinking about this in the context of our lives today?
  • What is clericalism and how does it stop us moving forward as a church?
    • How do we experience clericalism today, in our own contexts?
  • What is a better way of describing the relationship between clergy and laity?
  • How can we create more mature communities, and what does it mean to equip the saints?

In the webinar, Sr Gemma recommends the Reimagining the Examen app to help us all find God in our daily lives.  You can find more information here:

You can also find her powerpoint slides here: PELAGIANISM 2021


Week 4: Transforming our parish culture  with Jo Boyce of CJM Music  (Chapter 5)

Jo Boyce is an internationally well-known composer, musician and liturgist, leading worship with archbishops and bishops for thousands of people at events around the world.  She also leads the music in her own parish! She has a very powerful mixture of inspiration and practical advice to offer.  This week we will be discussing how to tell what your parish priorities are, how to create a culture of growth and welcome, and what the most important keys to parish transformation are.

The questions we discussed (roughly!) are

  • What are your parish priorities
  • What is parish culture, and what can any one person do about it
  • The 10 building blocks of missionary parishes
    • Give priority to the weekend – liturgy as source and summit
    • Hospitality
    • Uplifting music
    • Homilies
    • Meaningful community
    • Clear expectations
    • Strength based ministry
    • Formation of small communities
    • Experience of the Holy Spirit
    • Become an inviting church
  • How to make a difference as an individual – our circle of influence

Jo mentioned her Ministry Music Collective which mentors and forms parish musician.  You can find it here


Week 5: Sacraments as opportunity  with Fr Simon Penhalagon, Director of Mission Northampton (Chapter 6)

In week 5 we are looking at a whole new approach to the sacraments with Fr Simon Penhalagan.  Fr Simon is a priest of our diocese, a former president of the Sion Community, and is director of our new agency for evangelisation, Mission Northampton.  Every parish, no matter how big or small, has sacramental programmes and they represent a real opportunity to become a more outward looking church in quite a straightforward way.  I’m looking forward to him sharing a lifetime of experience with us.

With Fr Simon, we explored how Divine Renovation principles could be applied to one particular area of parish life: our sacramental programmes.  It is a very common experience to work with a group of families, whether through baptism, first reconciliation and communion, or confirmation, and find we see few of them back in the following weeks.  What are we doing wrong, and how can our programmes be more effective?  We talked through the following questions:

What and why

  • What are the sacraments for and how do they fit into parish priorities?
  • Culture of welcome – how does this apply to sacramental programmes
  • How our programmes be rooted in a culture of discipleship and encounter?


What are the elements of a mission facing sacramental programme?

  • Family first approach – evangelise the parents
  • Thinking about our main family Mass as the one we can invite parents too – what is it like to come back after a long absence?
  • Building relationships through mentoring/accompanying.  Catechists working with small groups of families, couples accompanying engaged couples, accompaniests/mentors for families preparing for baptism.
  • Where do Alpha/Sycamore, small groups and invite-able events fit?
  • Example – family catechesis for first communion

Fr Simon recommended Growing Up Catholic as an alternative family based first communion programme:  You might also enjoy watching the webinar on catechesis from our first series:  


Week 6: The Essential Role of Leadership with Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, Executive Director of Divine Renovation UK and Bishop David Oakley (Chapter 7)

As the Executive Director of Divine Renovation UK, Hannah Vaughan-Spruce has coached cohorts of priests through the Divine Renovation kick-starter programme.  She is an expert in the role of leadership in church, and helping parishes move from a theoretical understanding of Divine Renovation to actual next steps on the ground.  Bishop David will share his hope for our diocese and encourage us as we step out in faith.

An excellent and inspiring session to finish the series!  Among other things we discussed:

  1. What is leadership?  From both secular and priestly perspectives
  2. What difference does it make to have a plan?
  3. Where does strategy fit?
  4. What difference does leadership make to a parish structure?  What difference does it make to the priests?
  5. First steps – 3 Hs: hospitality, homilies, hymns
  6. 10 things you can do when you’re not in charge
  7. What Bishop David would like to see happening as as result of these webinars.

Look out for more resources for re-opening coming soon.