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Meet the Catholics from across Scotland building success through Divine Renovation

Catholics from 11 parishes around Scotland gathered at St Francis Xavier’s parish, Falkirk, on November 9, to share their learning and experiences of moving ‘from maintenance to mission.’ by Colette Cooper

The event was led by the Divine Renovation UK team, and their co-ordinator Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, parish priest Fr Jamie Boyle, Fr David Boyd from St John Bosco and St Bernadette’s in Erskine and Fr James Mackay from Our Lady of Walsingham parish, Royal Docks London.

Other guests included Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Divine Renovation first started as a book by Fr James Mallon, which was published in 2014. This shared the transformation of Fr Mallon’s own parish, St Benedict’s, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Parish inspiration

Since then, parishes around the world have been inspired by and have begun adopting three key principles. The first is evangelisation: everything is about reaching out to the outsider who does not yet know Jesus. The second is leadership: adopting styles of leadership that create healthy cultures to support growth. The third key principle is the power of the Holy Spirit; reliance on God and expectation that He will bring about the change that the Faithful long to see.

The event, Divine Renovation Connect, included a keynote speech from Fr Mackay, whose parish in East London is four years into its Divine Renovation journey. He shared his tips and the pitfalls to look out for in the first year of renewal.

St Francis Xavier’s parish priest, Fr Boyle, said: “For me, Divine Renovation is changing the way we operate in our parish, encouraging more involvement, shared responsibility, parish priests working with parish teams. It helps me in my ministry, having the back-up of a team.”


He added that, in terms of evangelisation, it is ‘transforming peoples lives’ and there have been ‘positive experiences of people who have been through the process.’

“[It’s] changing their life in their relationship with Jesus, God and Faith. People are more involved in life of the parish.”

He said there was an awareness of both people who go to church and those who don’t and he noted that it’s important to build on all the good work that has already been done by different groups.

After attending the ‘Leading Divine Renovation as a priest’ workshop, Fr Boyle said: “[There were] 11 parishes represented, so it was good for myself, Fr David and Fr James to talk about how Divine Renovation is changing our experience in the parish. I spoke about the whole idea of working as a team.


[We’re] trying to have that clear vision of what we’re doing and trying to lead a parish. I know people who couldn’t be here who are still interested in Divine Renovation. It was a great day to make connections with other parishes.”

He added that many parishioners attended, then returned from the event feeling ‘very enthusiastic.’
“I would say it [was] a success and the start of more things to come, after those initial connections were made, we can meet together more often and share ideas.

“At the heart of all we did on the day, there was a lot of time centred on prayer,” Fr Boyle said.

In their newsletter, St Bernadette’s commented: “Divine Renovation Conference in Birmingham at the start of 2019 saw the first gathering of Scottish delegates who were filled with enthusiasm for what Divine Renovation could mean for parish communities as we try to meet the challenges of today.

“There are three things that are always at the top of the agenda in Divine Renovation: hymns, hospitality and homilies. In Falkirk we had the best of these and our hearts burned within us as we met together.

“In groups, in discussion and as we ate together, we shared our experiences and began to develop links that will help us to grow in our understanding and inspire us.”


The newsletter added that the Divine Renovation team had led parishioners ‘through workshops, self-evaluation and reflection throughout the day.’

According to the parish, more than 50 people attended the Divine Renovation Connect, which provided ‘a strong foundation to carry forward a vision and plan to build and refresh the Great Commission in our communities of Faith.’

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, coordinator for Divine Renovation UK said: “We are so excited at seeing how many parishes in Scotland are working hard to develop a more missional, outward-facing identity.

“It is not an easy transformation to make and, as a ministry, it is a privilege for Divine Renovation to support and walk alongside them.

“We can’t wait to start seeing the fruits over the coming years as more people encounter Christ through these parishes, which is needed desperately in the world today.”

Alive in Faith

She added that parishes involved were seeing more people coming alive in their Faith and coming to know Christ for the first time through Alpha. Each parish is led by a leadership team of around five people, including the parish priest, who is co-responsible for the parish’s mission.

The parishes are also receiving leadership coaching through the global ministry based in Halifax.

Three other parishes in Scotland are in the Divine Renovation Network, which seeks to support parishes through online resources, webinars and regular video contact with other parishes across Britain.

Thirty-three parishes around the UK are part of this growing network.

The parishes that attended the Falkirk event, in addition to St Francis Xavier’s and St John Bosco’s and St Bernadettes’, were: South Edinburgh Cluster, St Joachim’s Glasgow, St Charles’ Paisley, St Joseph’s Glasgow, St Mary’s Duntocher & St Joseph’s Faifley, St Cadoc’s Glasgow, St Mary’s Stirling, St Mary’s Cathedral Aberdeen and St Mary’s in Lanark.

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