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Steward of the Gospel

Chris Chandler – Steward of the Gospel

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Steward’s News

21 September 2018

It is a little while since I Have written here, largely because there has been comparatively little happening. Some of you have been asking how the proposal for linking our parish with St Joseph the Worker at Hutton is progressing. All I can say about that is that the strength of the views we expressed have been and are being taken well into account by Bishop Alan and the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group. We will have to wait until Advent  to learn what the Bishop decides to do.

For me the most exciting thing that has happened was the Adoremus National Eucharistic Congress  and Pilgrimage in Liverpool in early in September. I was on that pilgrimage with ten others from the parish including Fr Patrick. It was truly wonderful. I have written some of my reflections about it.(click here for the reflections).

Apart from that Stewards have just started on a formation course focusing on evangelization that will run until next May. The first session on 15 September presented by Teresa Carvahlo from the office of the Bishops’ Conference . The title for the session was The Role of the Steward.  It was very enlightening and demonstrated that there is so much more to evangelization than just preaching the word of God. It is about spreading the eternal love of God in our community by what we do and say, how we behave towards others. The Celebration Lunch we had in July, our reception after the Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday, our quizzes, race nights and prayer groups are all examples of evangelization. So are our scouts and altar servers etc. Our schools are extremely important. We must give thanks for the enormous amount of work that goes on in our parish already in this field already while keeping our eyes open for other opportunities. I could fill whole page or more with examples of what is happening. I came away feeling that our parish is doing quite well on this front but perhaps there is a bit more we can do for others in Brentwood that are presently not joining in with us.

As this term rolls on I will keep you informed of what is happening. In the meantime can I please ask you to keep praying for the work we are trying to do and for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

May God bless you all  ….  Chris Chandler, Steward of the Gospel

Reflections on the Adoremus

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress

Over the weekend 7-9 September 2018 eleven of us from the parish including Fr Patrick and Deacon  Quentin travelled to Liverpool on this Congress with about 6,500 others from all parts of the UK and Ireland. We all had a wonderful spiritually uplifting experience  that is worth a few words of reflection that I would like to share with you ………. Read More

13 March 2018

Thank you to all those who attended the Open Parish Meeting on 15 February and to everyone who wrote in to Fr Martin about the proposal that two priests at Brentwood should serve St Joseph The Worker at Hutton as well.

Please click here to see the report of that meeting .. which has been submitted to Cathedral House on behalf of our parish. Your letters have also been submitted and have been read by Bishop Alan.

There was also a meeting of Clergy and Stewards on 24 FebruaryClick for an account of that meeting

I encourage you all to take some time to look at this please. It sets out very clearly indeed what the Stewardship Project is seeking to do and some details of how we will be moving forward with our discernment in the coming months. This is no small task and I ask you to continue to pray for all those working on this project that we will continue to receive the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in good measure.

12 January 2018

A very Happy and Blessed New Year to you all.

May I please draw your attention to Fr Martin’s post on the this website about the proposal for Hutton parish to be served from the Cathedral parish. CLICK for PAGE

This is a very important issue for consideration in our parish community. There is to be an open meeting for this purpose in the parish hall at 7.30 on 15 February. After that meeting I will be expected, as Steward, to report on the views expressed to the Bishop and the Diocesan Strategic Planning Group via Steven Webb the Director of Development for the diocese.

It will help Fr Martin and I enormously if you would take the trouble to read the document in question, if you have not already done so, send your comments to Fr Martin, as he asks, and attend and take part in the meeting on 15 February.

God bless,

Chris Chandler
Steward of the Gospel

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Our recently appointed Director of Development, Steven Webb, has just published some Preliminary Observations on the Parish Questionnaires completed by the Stewards in time for Easter and those Observations are (set out below). Our completed Questionnaire is already on this site.

Please read Steven’s document:

—— Last weekend the Clergy and Stewards met to hear and talk about the next stage of consultation for the future within our diocese; there will be more to say on that as summer progresses. One particularly significant piece of news is that Bishop Alan will be launching a Bishop’s Certificate in Catechesis and Youth Ministry on Saturday 4th November 2017 at Sacred Heart of Mary School, Upminster. This will be a really important training resource to enable people to help others learn and understand more about the love of God and our faith. Provision will also be made to train people to catechise adults, something very much wanted.

Download Steven’s Full Document – PDF Format


Watch this space, keep praying and God bless.

Chris Chandler

Sunday 6 May 2017

I have now submitted to the diocese the completed Parish Questionnaire together with an Executive Summary of what I found in our parish as set out in detail in Parts A and B of the Questionnaire .. corrected May 2017.

Those documents are set out below.

Part A of the Questionnaire is very largely statistical while Part B is reflective and Part C sets out some thoughts about the future. Parts B and C reflect, as far as I have been able, the information in Part A together with what I have gathered at the three discussion meetings that I held, your responses to the short questionnaire circulated last month and conversations I have had with a variety of people and clergy in the parish, after Mass, at social functions and so on. I really am most grateful to everyone.

I outlined at the end of my note of 26 March 2017 the programme that will lead to us publishing a Formal Proposal for our Diocese in Advent 2018. I will keep you informed as we progress and involve you in consultation as widely as possible.

God bless,

Chris Chandler



Executive Summary of Parish Questionnaire .. May 2017

  1. We are the parish of Brentwood which has had a Mass attendance of about 1,000 each Sunday for the last 30 years. We merged in 2015 with the parish of Holy Cross and All Saints in Warley with a Mass attendance of about 250 over the same period. There are two priests, two active deacons, one retired and one in training, 25 others in leadership roles and between 250 and 300 with other active roles, e.g. altar servers, choristers, cleaners, flower arrangers, parish pastoral councillors, welcomers etc. Our parish church is also the Mother Church of the Diocese of Brentwood. On Sundays there are five regular Masses between Saturday and Sunday evening. Choral Vespers are celebrated weekly in term time.
  2. We have in the parish an Infant, a Junior, a Preparatory and a Secondary School, one of which is private. The clergy visit them regularly and their parents, pupils and teachers are active in our community. All the schools are an integral part of our parish life, all of them communicating their own evident spirituality.
  3. Two religious sisters from our parish are active in overseas missions. The Brentwood Ursuline sisters and the students from that school support a mission in Kenya. They also receive material support from collections etc. in the parish. Locally we are active in Churches Together, the Good Friday Walk of Witness and other local Christian events. Some of our parishioners have started to forge a relationship with the local Jewish community.
  4. Financially we are currently sound after paying off, over 10 years, a large debt for refurbishment of our parish halls. We are able to meet our liability for the cost of redecorating and repairing the Cathedral for the centenary celebrations. Gift Aid campaigns have made a considerable difference. A significant income is generated from lettings of our halls to outside groups.
  5. There are a very wide range of active groups in the parish covering all ages and activities including liturgical, social, fundraising, pre-school, confirmation and prayer groups.
  6. We find ourselves as a vibrant, active and financially viable parish with much loved and respected but very busy clergy. Our people would like to spend more time fostering their spiritual lives by discussion and prayer. Happily, a second prayer group is about to start in the evenings alongside one that already runs during the day.

Chris Chandler … Steward of the Gospel


A copy of this Completed Questionnaire (in PDF format) is available by clicking this link:

Message from Chris Chandler – 6 May 2017 – Please Note: I have discovered that as a result of a system compatibility issue the completed Questionnaire published earlier on the website was not in the form in which it was submitted. It looked as though all the questions to be answered by marking a circle had been left unanswered as the circle markings I had made had been removed. With the help of our webmaster that has now been dealt with and the earlier version replaced. My apologies to anyone seeing the earlier version who may have thought that I had ignored what they had told me or whose contribution in the parish had been overlooked. I have also made one or two small alterations to the Executive Summary which I hope make it more accurate and clearer

Click Here to see Parish Questionnaire in PDF Format

Monday 20 March 2017

The meeting which was postponed from 30 November, will now take place on Tuesday 28 March 2017 in the small hall at 7.30 pm. I previously referred to this in error as the Fourth rather than the Third meeting. Please come to this meeting if you possibly can.

Below are the Questions for Consideration at this meeting:

St Helen’s Cathedral Parish Questionnaire .. Questions for Consideration at the Third Parish Discussion Group 28 March 2017

Location and Geography

A flourishing community may be influenced by its location. The proximity of neighbouring parishes can have a real impact on the vibrancy of a community. If several communities are in close proximity with large, ageing buildings that are only half-full, this will need to be taken into account when considering the future.

Our basic question is about how we can enable communities to flourish in order for us to deepen our sense of discipleship and service. Our parish churches are not private chapels maintained simply because the community has enough money to cover the expense.

  1. a) How does your community feel about the possibility that the only way to ensure flourishing in the future is to become part of a new parish community?
  2. b) How does your community feel about the possibility that the only way to ensure flourishing in the future is to become part of a new parish community?
  3. c) If applicable, what is the relationship between different churches or Mass centres within the parish or between linked parishes?
  4. d) Is/are there neighbouring parishes which would lend themselves to being linked to your parish or to becoming part of a partnership or “cluster”?


2. a) Given all that we have explored, what would you see as the priorities to ensure a viable and flourishing community in 2030?

2. b) Do you have any other observations – particularly about anything that may have been missed?


There is no doubt that there are some really innovative things going on within our worshipping communities from Parish Fun Days which bring together the whole community to imaginative liturgies during Holy Week; from exciting Confirmation programmes to pilgrimages and vigils.

3. a) Is there something your community is involved in which will be of interest to others in the Diocese?

A copy of this questionnaire (in PDF format) of this is available by clicking this link:

Parish Questionnaire

Please print the form and when you have completed it return it to Clergy House Office for the Attention Of Chris Chandler

Below is a summary of what took place at the earlier two meetings in the autumn.

Our Parish Community’s Initial Thoughts and Ideas about the Future (So Far)

At our first meeting we thought about how we might sustain and increase the numbers worshipping with us towards 2030, what lay leadership resources we currently have, how that might be maintained increased bearing in mind the age range of our community, and how we might become more immersed in our local community.

It became clear that there is a demand from younger and older adults to be able to learn more about their faith within the parish and to discuss some of the more difficult questions. This is something that could be provided by suitably trained lay people but there seems to be a lack of resources for this. A facility like this could be used to encourage our lapsed brethren to return. This theme recurred in later discussions.

We currently have between 250 and 300 people fulfilling a wide variety of roles within the parish for a weekly Mass attendance of about 1000.

Parish activities are covered in the local press from time to time e.g. the illumination of the cathedral in red to commemorate those being persecuted throughout the world for their Christianity. Members of our community are volunteering to travel abroad to support Catholic and other communities overseas. We are involved in Churches Together in Brentwood

In terms of formation in the faith at our second meeting we were thinking that more ought to be done for Catholics who do not attend Catholic schools. It was noted that there was a particular difficulty for boys to get places which may be a contributory factor to the decreasing number of young men offering themselves for ordination. However, it was appreciated that statutory restrictions on the pupil selection on faith grounds had resulted in the development of no new Catholic schools. The schools not only immersed the children in their faith but their families as well. Keeping in touch with youngsters once they left home for university or work was seen as a problem. In the parish we have several groups such as brownies, cubs, scouts, the youth group, choir etc. attracting young people to a wide variety of activities within our parish community. Bursaries are available from the Catenians to support young people wishing to travel abroad to work for their faith and these have been taken up in the parish.

We found ourselves to be in a relatively healthy financial position at the moment able to meet our expected expenditure on maintenance and redecoration of the Cathedral church in anticipation of centenary celebrations for the diocese with whom we have a cost sharing agreement. We already make a contribution to help poorer parishes and support a different charity each year. It was recognised that we should always be thinking whether we could increase our offertory and that the Gift Aid Campaign was making all the difference.

After the next meeting I will complete and return the Parish Questionnaire to the diocese in time for Easter. Between then and mid May the Questionnaires from throughout the diocese will be reviewed by our newly appointed Director of Development, Steven Webb, who has put in place a rigorous programme of discussion and consultation to lead to a Formal Proposal for our Diocese which will be published on the First Sunday of Advent 2018. During this time we will have further meetings in the parish the first of which will be in late May or June of this year.

All the Stewards and Clergy are going to be in serious need of your prayers, and our own, in this work.

God bless,

Chris Chandler

Saturday 18 March 2017

The discussion postponed from last November 2016 will now take place in the Small Cathedral Hall on Tuesday 28 March at 7.30 pm. I am in the course of preparing the material for the meeting, which will be published here in the next few days. Thank you to all those who picked up and have responded to the recent short Questionnaire. Your responses have been extremely useful. Chris Chandler – Steward of the Gospel

Wednesday 8 February 2017

You may remember that before Christmas I was expecting a document from the diocese for circulation, and that I was postponing the Discussion Group planned for the end of November until the New Year.

That document (flyer) has only just been published this weekend together with a short Questionnaire for parishioners and a Pastoral Letter from Bishop Alan. The flyer explains what we have been doing so far and outlines a bit more about the Stewardship Project. Fr Martin and I encourage you all to read and absorb that.

The Questionnaire sets out four questions for you and we would like you please to return those to me at Clergy House or electronically to by the end of the month. I will be distributing the flyer and Questionnaire after each Mass this weekend. I will now set up the final Discussion Group on a date to be announced in early March following the meeting of Clergy and Stewards, mentioned on the flyer, on 25 February.

Watch this space for more news! Chris Chandler – Steward of the Gospel


As a result of a mix up on my part last weekend there was no Questionnaire with the Flyer and Pastoral Letter from Bishop Alan. My apologies for that oversight and the inconvenience caused. The Flyer can be downloaded by clicking the link below and printed. You may then scan the completed flyer and email it to me at If you prefer, you may also hand in the completed form at Clergy House. I will endeavour to have hard copies available at Mass next weekend. Once again I apologise or my mistake. God bless, Chris Chandler.

Click here to download the Questionnaire

Sunday 6 November 2016

The diocese have informed us that later this month they will let us have a short document about the Stewardship Project which they would like circulated in the parishes in order to generate some feedback from parishioners.

They have also extended the time for return of the completed Parish Questionnaire that I have previously referred to until Easter 2017.

With Fr Martin’s agreement I have, therefore, decided to defer the Discussion Group planned for 30 November until a date after Christmas which I will publish in due course.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

The Second Parish Discussion Group will be held on Wednesday 2nd November at 7.30 pm in the Parish Hall; topics for discussion at this meeting will be

‘Education and Continuing Formation’, ‘Outreach’, ‘Finances’ and ‘Young People ’

Questions for Consideration

Below are a series of questions for discussion at our second meeting. Where appropriate, I have added some facts from my gathering of factual information about the parish which may inform the discussion.

Education and Continuing Formation

a) What good experiences has your community had in the past and what opportunities would you like to see for ‘continuing formation’ in the faith for members of your community?

b) How can closer relationships be developed between the worshipping community, the school(s) the young people attend, and the families that belong to both?


A flourishing community extends a spirit of hospitality and invites people to become members. It also looks way beyond itself to discover how the spirit of Jesus can be brought to bear on everything that concerns us in the world: our relationship with other Christian Churches, women and men of other faiths and all men and women of good will in our world.

Under this heading we include: hospitality; Ecumenism; Interfaith relationships; involvement in local social and political issues and much more. It explores the practical ways we have of becoming ‘missionary disciples’.

a) What good experiences has your community had regarding our call to be involved with other Christians, other faiths, all men and women of good will?

b) How can your worshipping community become more immersed in the local community?


A sustainable community must have an annual income that is sufficient to cover its expenses. There needs to be a reliable level of stewardship among the faithful who willingly give of their time, gifts and energy to sustain the work of the community.

In 2015/16 in Brentwood our offertory collection totalled £165,784 plus Gift Aid from HM Treasury of £25,914, donations of £2,385 and £20,500 of other income. Our surplus of income over expenditure was £52,927. At Holy Cross offertories were £20,397 plus Gift Aid of £3,344, donations of £250 and £20,221 of other income. As well as this we have a cost sharing agreement with the diocese to deal with the cost of maintaining and running the Cathedral building. Brentwood and Holy Cross together paid £42,100 to the diocese as the Diocesan Quota i.e. our contribution to the cost of running the diocese.

a) How do you feel about the average weekly offertory donation in your community? Does this need to increase to enable your community to flourish in 2030?

b) If you are a finance-rich community, how do you feel about sharing some of your resources with very poor parts of the Diocese?

Young People

Young people are not just the ‘future’ of the Church; they are very much part of the present. We all need to look at how actively young people are encouraged and affirmed in their contribution to the community throughout the year. The enthusiasm and energy of young people can sometimes be daunting to those who are older, but they are also signs of the Holy Spirit within us and among us.

a) What good experiences regarding Church life do the young people have in your community?

b) How can the presence and witness of young people be more encouraged and supported in the community?

All are welcome to attend

PDF Download

5 October 2016

St. Helen’s Cathedral Parish Questionnaire

Questions for Consideration at the First Parish Discussion Group. 5 October 2016

Below are a series of questions for discussion at our first meeting. Where appropriate, I have added some facts from my gathering of factual information about the parish which may inform the discussion. How might some of these facts change over the years?

1. How can your community look to sustain and increase the number of people worshiping with you towards 2030?

Since 1985 our Sunday Mass attendance figures at the Cathedral have averaged at about 1000 per week. At Warley the figures I have are incomplete but vary between 288 in 1990 and 209 in 2015. In 2014 it was 266. Our estimated catholic population in 2014 was 6500.

2. What lay leadership is currently available and effective in your community?

We currently have a Parish Pastoral Council meeting every 4 months chaired by a lay person. This is not required under Canon Law which does require a Finance Committee to advise the Parish Priest. This is also chaired by a lay person. The Parish Pastoral Council arranges an Annual General Meeting for the parish at which the Annual Accounts are presented and discussed.

We have a total of between 250 and 300 lay people fulfilling roles from the Personal Assistant to the Dean, through flower arrangers, altar servers, musicians and choristers, readers, Eucharistic ministers, baptism and confirmation group organizers, ushers, etc. Not all of these are leaders, of course.

3. For what other area of your community life could trained lay men and some assume responsibility?

This is an opportunity to think about some activities that we might like to see undertaken by priests, or are currently dealt with by them, that could be carried out by lay people as clergy time becomes more and more precious.

4. How diverse and active are parishioners within the community?

This question is about the reality that as people get older they usually become less active, with the risk that a parish could flounder if we do not have younger men and women who are able to take their place. Active leaders sometimes move out of the area and need replacing. How ready are we to deal with this?

5. How can the parish community invite and prepare more people to join it?

6. What good experiences has your community had regarding our call to be involved with other Christians, other faiths, all men and women of good will?

7. How can your worshipping community become more immersed in the local community?

20 September 2016

I have now arranged to have open discussions about the future strategy for our parish and diocese on:

Wednesday 5 October, Wednesday 2 November and Wednesday 30 November at 7.30 pm in the small hall.

These discussions will help me in the completion of the very extensive questionnaire upon which I have been working since May.

A copy of the questionnaire (in PDF format) of this is available by clicking this link:

Parish Questionnaire

At the first meeting we will be talking about how we might sustain and increase the number of people worshipping with us in Brentwood and Warley over the next, say, 15 years, the leaderships and involvement we presently have and how we might recruit and train more lay people to assume more responsibility.

Do come along, join in and have your say, over a glass of wine etc.

You may contact the Steward of the Gospel at: