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Fr Jim gives the ‘Thumbs Up’ for the Gift Course

The Parish of Christ the King Alfreton and St Patrick and St Bridget Clay Cross presented The Gift course during the six weeks of Lent. Co-ordinated by Sr Patricia, FSM and a team of twenty two, the course was an amazing experience of faith renewed and faith shared.

It all started when eleven parishioners attended the Training days in Nottingham in November and December. After Christmas, in January, Sr Patricia called the first meeting to prepare for the Course. Having watched the preparatory DVD the team took to heart the threefold emphasis on Prayer, Publicity and Preparation.

Prayer: The team agreed to pray the Novena Prayer to the Holy Spirit every day for the Gift Course. Sr Patricia distributed the prayer Cards and also suggested a little fasting - especially on Wednesdays - when we intended to run the Course. This agreed we moved on to our second ‘P’

Publicity: Several members of the team agreed to distribute posters in Churches, workplaces, schools and even in Tesco’s. Sr Patricia spoke at the end of all the Masses in our Parish and Sr Shirley spoke at other Christian Churches during their Sunday services. This bore abundant fruit as we had over 20 participants attend the Course from other Christian Churches. They were very enthusiastic, appreciative and grateful for the experience. The one-to-one personal invitation both within the parish and outside it was very effective. A number of our Parish team were available at the end of Mass to invite people and take names for the Course.

Preparation: the team worked with great enthusiasm and generosity to ensure that every aspect of the Course needs were met: room preparation, heating, lighting, table cloths, flowers, candles, technology, refreshments, car parking, hospitality, name labels and list of those who attended, printing of reflections for each week, questions and reminders for Table Leaders, hymn sheets, music (both live and on CD), resources from Café (on sale and return basis), photographers - all these details were superbly and unobtrusively dealt with by the team.

In February we had another preparatory team meeting to ensure that all details were in place and also to have some idea of numbers attending as this would affect the number of tables and printing requirements. We also felt it was necessary to meet again as a team during the Course to prepare for Week 5 which is a little different from the other sessions. This was a very worthwhile and blessed evening for the Team as each member was prayed with in a way that the Table Leaders would repeat during Session 5 for those in their group.

Two other events also prepared our hearts for engaging in the Gift Course. We have a Prayer group that meets on the second Thursday of every month at St Clare’s Convent. Our focus leading up to the Gift Course was Charles Whitehead’s book: The Gift which is recommended for use with the DVD Gift Course. We prayed and shared our reflections on each Chapter and this helped greatly in deepening our understanding of what was being offered. We also organised a 52 seater coach to the National Day in Birmingham celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Catholic Charismatic Renewal. This too was a channel of grace and inspiration in preparing the way for leading and participating in the Gift Course.
 
Entrusting our efforts to the Holy Spirit we felt ready to launch the Course on Ash Wednesday. We had a wonderful response, not only on Ash Wednesday but throughout the six weeks. We had hoped to replicate the number in the Upper Room on the first Pentecost - about 120 we are told. We almost reached that number as we had a total of 111 participants. The photos, which capture the mood of the Course and our experience as a parish, were capably taken by two of our parishioners, Paul Fuller and Bruce Johnson.

At our final session 6, one member of the team, Isabel Hopkins, produced delicious and attractively decorated cakes for our refreshments to celebrate our time together. Sr Patricia was also presented with a beautiful bouquet for flowers for her part in co-ordinating the Course. Using the language of the ‘Oscars’ Sister Patricia said she received the bouquet on behalf of all who had worked so hard to make this course possible. We hope and pray every other parish will be blessed by this amazing opportunity, which Bishop Patrick has encouraged throughout the Diocese.

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