It’s come to my attention that in the past 10 blogs or so I may not have been as clear as I wanted… that is with regard to the audience I was addressing.
All those times when I said something like This is what I want to tell you… I was talking directly to Catholic priests and clergy. Some of you I know really well and so I know how you took those words. Others of you I don’t know as well and so I know how you took them. My intent was/is not to demean or criticize… my goal is to put out some honest, albeit strong, ideas for you to think about and perhaps consider in your ministry. There are so few opportunities and venues for the regular people in the pews to say it like it really is.
In several posts I used the word ‘we’... there are lots of good people who are willing to help you. Don’t feel alone or overwhelmed. What I want to tell you today… three words that are used all the time… we need to find new words and new ways to talk about them:
Evangelization… Stewardship… and Vocation.
Evangelization: It conjures a really scary vision of people coming to my door and talking to me about God! Oh my… actually that is a bit intimidating but more than that the word implies membership recruitment and the idea that My church is better than their church so come join mine. In this day and age, competition between denominations is giving way to hospitality and welcome… ironically, not based on theology at all… the churches who are most inviting and warm draw the largest crowds.
Try a new word: Inspiration. Most people already believe something positive about God. The task at hand is to inspire them to want to learn more.
Stewardship: This has been the church buzzword for the past 10 years and more. We take a lot of pride in being able to proclaim We are a stewardship parish! or We are a stewardship diocese! And rightly so… a lot of great work has been done over the years. But most of the rhetoric has revolved around money. If the full meaning of stewardship had been the primary focus—giving of time, talent and treasure—we’d have lay ministers coming out our ears. Is there anyone out there who has too many volunteers?
Let’s talk about Discipleship: This is the new horizon that we need to be casting our gaze towards… to be able to proclaim: We are a discipleship parish and diocese!
Vocation: Ordained or religious life. Plain and simple. Even though you say this includes married and single life, we know you are secretly hoping that more men will become priests and more women will become nuns. Because these two types of people are the ones who are formally trained and therefore competent and best qualified to teach faith. This doesn’t apply to the 95+% of the rest of us.
The new words: Meaning and Purpose. Every person sitting in your congregation wants to discover the meaning and purpose of his or her own life/to be affirmed and valued for what they bring to the table/to give of themselves to make a better world. Goes back to the idea of discipleship and inspiration… if you help me become a disciple, I will have a sense of my own vocation and then I’ll go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Gospel.
I’m just saying…