As the Church’s new year begins with the season of Advent, Bishop Christopher Jones marked the occasion with the launch of a new booklet aimed at helping the formation of Advent scripture sharing groups in local parishes. The Advent season gets underway on Sunday, December 2 nd . Already, staff in the Diocese of Elphin’s Pastoral Development Office are busy helping parish groups prepare. Two hundred copies of the new booklet entitled ‘Discerning and Responding to God’s Presence in Our Lives’ are now being distributed in local parishes. The idea for the initiative came from the success of the diocese’s new Lenten initiative earlier this year. Over 650 people joined groups in twenty of the diocese’s thirty-eight parishes. The Elphin diocesan initiative followed the success of similar moves in the dioceses of Kildare and Killaloe. Commenting after the launch Justin Harkin, Director of Pastoral Development said: ‘There is a need for an antidote to the excessive materialistic avalanche that can characterise the build-up to Christmas. It is becoming oppressive. This initiative invites people to stand back and to value their nature as spiritual and communal beings. There is nothing difficult or challenging about it and it does not require the presence or direction of any expert. Basically adults are encouraged to gathered with a few friends or neighbours for a half hour each week in one of their kitchens or sittings rooms and to follow a simple process of enquiry outlined in the booklet. This process draws upon a provided Gospel passage and a written reflection’. He continued: ‘What we are doing is not new. Some of us have been at this for years and we experience it as life-giving. It is also a throwback to the time when visiting neighbours was part of peoples’ experience. Engaged in well, it fosters good friendships and a sense of belonging between participants. I encourage every adult to give it a try.’ Bishop Jones is delighted with the development. In launching the booklet he encouraged all Christians to look upon Advent as an expectant season, a privileged time of looking forward in relation to the triple coming of the Lord: in history, in grace and at the end of time. ‘Advance in the knowledge that God’s plans for us are always for peace, to give us a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11) and that all things will work together for good for all who love God (Rom 8:28)’ he said. Copies of the booklet can be ordered through local clergy / Parish Scripture Sharing Group co-ordinators or directly from the diocese’s Pastoral Development Office in Strokestown, Co. Roscommon. The diocese is also happy to share the resource by e-mail with any other parish or diocese that would like to run with it. The booklet has also been identified as suited to family and personal prayer.