Seamus Cunningham, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle

Crossing the Threshold was an Evangelisation Tour throughout Britain in 2011-13 with a stress on outreach to non-practicing Catholics. I have been asked to share a few thoughts.

For me, crossing the threshold is all about opening doors – from within and from the outside.

From within, we open doors when:

  • we listen
  • we try to understand
  • we recognise our prejudices
  • we welcome
  • we befriend
  • we accompany
  • we support

How many of us who are safe in the church teeter on the threshold:

  • afraid to approach
  • afraid to make a fool of ourselves
  • afraid to reach out to non-Church goers
  • afraid of rejection
  • afraid to declare ourselves
  • afraid of commitment
  • above all, afraid to make mistakes

Yet Pope Francis recently said he preferred a Church that made mistakes to a Church that was safe and closed and self-sufficient because such a Church was sick and even dead! The time has come to stand up and be counted – at least then we will be alive!

From the outside, if we put ourselves in the shoes of others especially onlookers, and non-believers, we find they are looking for:

  • a listening ear
  • a sympathetic glance
  • a warm smile
  • a helping hand
  • a word of explanation
  • a friendly gesture

Can we throw open the doors for them?

  • to make it easy for them to take the first step
  • to give them a reason for believing
  • to give them an experience of belonging
  • to offer them a word of encouragement
  • to invite them for a cup of coffee
  • to introduce them to a church event which they will enjoy without any pressure
  • to offer to walk with them when they are ready
  • to ease them over the threshold

This may be the most momentous step they will ever take.

It is no accident that Pope Benedict chose to talk about opening doors when he inaugurated the Year of Faith.

Don’t shut the door in the face of someone who is searching with ‘I don’t know you’. How terrible it would be for us to reach the gate of heaven and hear the same words from Christ, ‘Behold, I do not know you... as long as you did it – or did not do it – to the least of my children you did it – or neglected to do it – for me.’

Rt Rev Seamus Cunningham
Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle