LONDON -first posted 12 November 2001 - 1,140 words
Where can you go if you are a young person in London and you want to meet other young Catholics to socialise and share your faith?
A new group that has recently started up might provide the answer. Time4God, which was launched in September, gathers again this Sunday (November 18) in the parish hall of Holy Apostles, Pimlico, central London.
Aimed at the 17-plus age group - the session is a lively mix of music, prayer, teaching and conversation - ending with Mass in the church. Afterwards many go on to the pub to carry on socialising.
Time4God was set up by Fr Pat Browne and James Parker. Fr Pat is Vocations Director for Westminster Diocese, as well as the new parish priest of Holy Apostles. James is a layman who works as the Assistant for Public Affairs to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
Fr Pat said he decided to set up Time4God after meeting many young people who were looking for somewhere were they could pray, reflect and socialise with others.
He said: "There were very few places I could point them to. So when I was sent to Pimlico, it was like being given a way to answer them. Pimlico is central. Easy to get to. It has one of the finest parish halls I have seen. A nice bright church and a congregation that wants to open its doors."
Twenty six young people attended the first meeting in September. Fr Pat spoke then about living in the present moment; seeing the Godness of things here and now, and making Time for God. James led the music.
A month later, at this October session, in spite of a day of torrential downpours, the group had doubled. This time the music was led by Sophie from the SPEC community at All Saints Pastoral centre in Hertfordshire.
Alice Hall, from the Sion Community in Brentwood gave a talk about what it meant to be a young person with faith in 2001.
Speaking about her own struggles with prayer - "one of the few habits that is not addictive!" - she said: "They describe us as a bold, confident generation. But how true is that? We're the greatest consumers, demanding more and more products and experiences all the time, but how confident are we really? What is holding us back? I think its fear. Fear of what others will think of us. Fear of the future. Also I'm afraid of what God might ask me to do.
"The answer of course is there in the Bible, where it says 365 times: Do not be afraid.
"God is a relational God who meets us where we are. We are told: "Unload all your worries onto Him for he is looking after you."
"God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. He wants us to be bold not timid."
She said: "We have free access to God. There is a need to integrate life and balance family, friendship and work. God is there at each moment if we only realised. He answers all our prayers - we just need to ask."
Alice's talk was followed by music, prayer and a time of quiet adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Then the gathering broke up into smaller groups to give people a chance to get to know each other and share thoughts and ideas.
Many people said Alice's talk had struck a chord. Several agreed that being a young person and a Christian nowadays wasn't always easy.
Paul, a student from Wimbledon, said : "I know some people at college see it almost as a sign of weakness when I say I go to church. I find myself starting to apologise, explaining myself - but then often I think it's the same reaction you get when you refuse a cigarette, because you've quit smoking. There's often a good deal of respect underneath. I used to be much more shy about talking about my faith then I am now."
Damien, a French engineering student in London for a year, agreed. He said: "Sometimes it's not easy - but I find people often aren't so surprised. And when we open up and start talking, they're actually very interested in why I hold the beliefs I do. I feel it is important to respond when people start asking questions."
A secretary who works for an accountancy firm in the City said she felt very reassured by those words Alice quoted: 'Do not be afraid.'
"It's so easy to forget" she said. "There have been lots of redundancies in my company lately. I have been feeling really worried actually. But in fact, if I did lose my job it might be the best thing. I am thinking of going to college and training to do something else, maybe going into teaching or speech therapy. You can just get caught up in the fast lane and it is so important to remember God is here all the time and to trust him."
Another newcomer to the group felt the same way. She had just arrived in London a month ago. She said: "I'm in a new city, in a new flat, starting a new job tomorrow and I hardly know anybody. I think Alice was right saying young people are afraid. We do have much more freedom maybe than our parents, but so much choice and change can be frightening too. She has reminded me to pray for guidance in all of this."
Mass was celebrated in the church. During his homily, Fr Pat recalled the Harvest Thanksgiving Mass he had celebrated the previous evening. The altar had been surrounded by baskets of colourful fruits and vegetables.
"All God's creation is here to praise God" he said. "The rich purple plum, golden apples and juicy red tomatoes."
"Jesus, who was the most fruitful person who ever lived (although he had no children) wants us to live our lives as fully as possible as God's co-creators."
He said: "We do that through every aspect of our lives, our work and the quality of our relationships. Being fruitful is to be alive and give life."
After Mass, many people said they would be coming to the next Time4God and a crowd went off to the pub to continue the evening.
First-timer Nicky, who works in tele-marketing and teaches drama in between acting jobs said: "I really enjoyed enjoyed today. It was non threatening and left me with lots of food for thought. Some things you've heard before but they're difficult to take in. You need to hear them again and again."
Next Sunday's Time4God starts at 3 for 3.30 and finishing with Mass at 6. Depending on requests from participants, the form is going to be similar each month, with different speakers and people leading the music.
If you would like more information, telephone: 020 7834 6965 or e-mail: time4God@another.com
LONDON -first posted 12 November 2001 - 1,140 words