Safe landings: A contemporary way to support parishes in welcoming people back to the church

A programme for returning Catholics is explained by Dominic Robinson SJ, Landings UK Director, with co-authors Ruby Almeida and Margaret Johnston, Directors of Landings London and Landings North

‘If you’re here for the first time in a while, we just want to say welcome home. However long you’ve been away, you’re always welcome at our church.’ The kind of words I hear myself saying a lot as parish priest of Farm Street Church, a central London faith community which, it is my hope at least, can more and more get across a message of welcome and hospitality to all. All of our parishes up and down the country surely have a similar aspiration: to be a place of welcome to all at a time of transition in the Church in Britain when, despite much new enthusiasm for faith, numbers are still dropping and many are disillusioned by institutional religion. Since 2014 we have been the centre of the Landings Programme for Returning Catholics, a programme started in the US in 1980 and active in Britain since the late 1990s, where we are present now in 15 parishes. This work has brought many challenges. It is a slow process but also has taught us something about what it is to be communities of missionary disciples who seek to be welcoming to all. So before outlining the structure and method of Landings it is worth noting how having a programme for returning Catholics helps parish communities as a whole.

The Landings Programme helps parishes towards renewal as the process helps communities to develop into places of welcome led by missionary disciples. Importantly, the programme has taught me that the business of welcoming back is a work of the whole faith community, in the same way that the RCIA and other programmes like Alpha and Divine Renovation are not isolated parish activities but require ownership by all. To start Landings in a parish or group of parishes, teamwork between clergy and parishioners is a prerequisite.

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