Over the weekend of 24th – 26th June, Quest committee members, regional convenors and a few invited former committee members spent a weekend working on a strategic plan to take Quest through the next few years. (For some background on why this meeting was called, see “Quest’s Productive Working Weekend“. In the interest of transparency, we publish below a summary of the proceedings and conclusions, based on detailed notes taken during each session.
RUBY ALMEIDA (Chair/London))
RICKY HORSCRAFT (Committee/South East
TERRY WELDON (Committee/South East)
KIERAN FITZSIMONS (Committee)
JOHN ASHMAN (East Midlands)
GREG THORNTON (East Midlands)
MARK DOWD (Quest in the North)
CLAIRE JENKINS (Committee/East Midlands)
WILLIAM CHAPPLE (Quest member)
NICK BURCHNALL (Quest in the North)
GEZ HODGSON (Quest in the North)
TONY DI MAMBRO (West Midlands)
NICK HOGG (Glasgow)
The Strategy Weekend consisted of 10 separate sessions as follows:
- The sessions were intended to establish Quest’s priorities for the next three years (2016-2019)
- By the end of Session 3 this had been achieved
- Three broad areas were outlined: PASTORAL SUPPORT, EDUCATION and DIALOGUE
- The remaining sessions were devoted to drilling down into the meaning and implications of each of these broad areas
Session 1 – How had Quest changed? Why have these changes taken place?
Session2 – Framing our Vision – Brainstorming
Session 3 – Establishing our Priorities
Session 4 – Key area of development 1 – PASTORAL SUPPORT
Session 5 – Key area of development 2 – EDUCATION
Session 6 – Key area of development 3 – DIALOGUE
Session 7 – Plenary – Resource implications / funding requirements
Session 8 – Funding issues: Requirements
Session 9 – Funding issues: Sources
Session 10 – Planning into practice – formulation of Action Plan
The Three Priority Areas
Taking Joy of the Gospel to others – the group felt that the atmosphere of Quest should always be one of positivity to others and those within the Quest family.
Strengthening relationships – it was important to put good and strong relationships at the heart of our work. All of Quest’s ventures should ultimately have the aim of strengthening relationships whether they be formal or personal.
Spiritual Relationships – an important aspect of the work of Quest continues to be nurturing the growth of spirituality within our members and supporters. Further work needs to be done on providing opportunities for individuals and groups to deepen their relationship with God.
Ministry to each other – much of Quest’s work is involved in supporting members at the level which is needed by the individual. Presently this is achieved by a range of formal and informal situations. The aim is to make this more accessible by protocols, resources and training.
Mentoring / Counselling – much discussion revolved around the desirability of mentoring and the achievability of counselling as an objective. Mentoring was seen as an achievable target with counselling to be examined further down the line. Both were seen as requiring further investigation through links and exploration with potential partners in this field.
More National events – there was a desire to build on existing practice and instigate a wider range which local groups could tap into. This would require a greater degree of communication and cooperation between the regional groups and nationally organised gatherings.
Further collaboration between regional groups – this was seen as desirable and is presently taking place increasingly. Some is achievable relatively easily by sharing information, yet others will require advanced planning between the relevant groups. It was agreed that the need to increase active membership was crucial to the success of these ventures in the long term. This latter point has been identified as important to plan for.
More regional groups / wider geographical base – this can only be feasible with the success of a strategy to increase membership in the longer term.
The role of Quest in the “educational” sphere was regarded as of increasing importance for the future. Quest has successfully supported its “own” but now needs to become more outward looking to play its part in changing attitudes in a range of contexts that are steadily opening up to us. The contexts described below were felt to be worthwhile and achievable within the next three to five years.
Parishes – more LGBT welcoming – some exploratory overtures have already been made to Quest with regard to speaking to representatives of Catholic parishes. These initial ventures will provide valuable information for broadening the appeal of Quest to mainstream parishes – when resources and training have been established.
Links with priests – promoting Quest – as the atmosphere has become more positive with the establishment of positive relationships with Cardinal Nichols (and other bishops) in addition to the recognition of pastoral care responsibilities of Christians towards the marginalised, the field has opened up to possibilities/likelihood of more open acceptance of Catholic LGBT living in parishes. There will be a need for some priests to learn about the experience of what it is like to be LGBT and Catholic. Various strategies were discussed to achieve a “perfect storm” of needs and answers that clergy, parishes and hierarchy may require and that Quest should be empowered to satisfy.
Priestly formation (Quest input into priestly training) – the need for this openness and understanding is great within those settings attempting to fully prepare pastors. Quest has a wealth of experience within its membership to give witness to Christian living and loving relationships as well as hardships endured. This is an area which may steadily become more fruitful in terms of dialogue. Indications are that this could develop. Materials are required to be ready for this.
Quest Diocesan contact a) Diocesan appointed b) Quest appointed – Many of these initiatives will require formal (as well as ongoing informal links) contact and therefore the establishing of named contacts will be required. This process has already begun with named individuals being given the role of establishing pastoral support within a given diocese and will gain pace. Quest will aim to have an equivalent Quest contact for separate regions.
Respect for diversity (Quest Training) – The role of training began to be seen as crucial to the success of many of the proposed objectives. Some has already taken place as in the Stonewall “School Role Model” project whereby a number of Quest members have been trained.
Education in schools/parishes re homophobia – School Role Models from Quest have started the process of improving understanding / tolerance of young people. The same process can be adopted for links with parishes, universities and clergy. However training is essential and action plans should reflect this.
Links with University chaplaincies – to increase the visibility of Quest as a support group but also as above as a source of information / witness.
Links with clergy – publicising the existence / work of Quest – similarly as mentioned in relation to universities the contribution of Quest to community understanding should be emphasised by its offers to potential partners within the Church.
Paid Worker with dedicated functions – in order to give greater focus and effectiveness to some of these strategies consideration should be given to the idea of some admin responsibilities being carried out by a paid worker with limited hours / limited tenure in the short term to alleviate pressure on volunteers. Longer term consideration could be given to an (effectively) self funding worker with a remit to source funding as well as other roles befitting the action plan of Quest. A feasibility paper for these two options will be required and is part of the attached action plan.
Dialogue was used to cover a wide range of issues which Quest needed to address if the plans described above were going to be achievable. Issues of improved internal communication and transparency were raised as well as the external “persona” of Quest. Although it was clear that Quest has changed over the years it was recognised that there was still much to do.
Open transparent committee – with relatively little work this could be addressed by regular brief updates available to all (confidentiality allowing) and could give the wider Quest family some ownership of committee issues.
Less insular as an organisation – Quest has certainly started on the road of opening up to many other partner organisations. This will inevitably be even more the case in future years as plans will need the cooperation of others. Much of this work is in existence and is planned to be built upon.
Building bridges – Soho Pastoral Group, other Christian LGBT groups (LGCM, Courage), other Faith groups – the links with local, national and international forums and groups has begun to reap benefits beyond the sum of the parts of Quest nationally.
Dialogue with local bishops and other Catholic partners – eg Catholic Safeguarding groups, parish based teams – the trend is now to increase these contacts as the opportunities for dialogue begin to open up – locally as well as nationally and beyond.
Awareness raising / marketing / publicity – all of the points in the three key areas above interdependent on aspects of each other. Crucial will be our ability to be noticed and responsive to needs, requests, from wider society. Some aspects of our focus will require what some may feel is not our core business. Raising awareness of why we exist (or even that we exist) will be key to any idea of doing increasingly good work in the three key priority areas. For this to happen, some short term focus on publicity will be essential and easy to achieve. In the medium term however more creative (and technological) ways of bringing Quest and its gifts to the attention of potential stakeholders will be required. The attached action plan endeavours to address these issues. There is much in the action plan which is not “fleshed out” and it is up to lead people to indicate how their section of the plan will be achieved. Timings may change but the direction of travel will be less open to change. The considerations will centre around HOW these things can best be achieved.
Individual actions of members and supporters – in all this the point was made that it is individual actions of members and supporters that will be fundamental. Prayer and action are the hallmarks of the Christian and so it would be fitting if people could still say of us “See how these Christians love …”