Going to church can be painful.

I’ve written more than a few blogs about why going to church is such a pain sometimes.  And more than a few people have said more than a few times:  Stop going!

In a nutshell:  I can’t.

Not sure what the exact reason is.  It might be the whole going-to-hell-Catholic-guilt-and-fear thing.  Or I’m-worried-what-people-will-think-if-I-don’t-show-up.  But part of me is still holding out hope that someday it will be my church again.  Naive perhaps… but I just can’t let go of that impossible dream.

This isn’t my church anymore.

I was sitting in Mass this weekend when it dawned on me:  This is not my church anymore.  Not the faith part, but this local church.  When did that happen?  And when was the last time I felt like it was my church?

It’s been 21 years since I started in ministry.  We joined a parish in Colorado where the fate of the church was in the hands of the people.  Ministry didn’t happen unless we made it happen.  I felt like I was needed… and probably because of that feeling in all of us volunteers, our parish thrived.  I think it had a lot to do with the leadership style of our pastor Fr. Ken.  The parish was founded and built on the theology that God would provide what was needed when it was needed.

True stewardship…  not the buzzword philosophy of tithing that we hear and ignore today.

In those days, the less money we had to work with, the harder we worked to make good things happen.  I felt a sense of ownership of my faith and of my church.  But it wasn’t because I got my way when big decisions were made.  It was because Fr. Ken allowed the direction of the parish to come from the voices of the people.

I don’t feel that way today.

Case in point:  Our weekend Mass schedule has changed starting a few days ago.  Yes… this is always a hornet’s nest… you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  But here’s the rub…

Last fall we had a listening session… read about that here… where we were asked for ideas about how to handle the impending priest shortage.  Two good ideas surfaced:

  1. Empower lay people in ministry.  (Read how that got translated… click here)
  2. Work out a weekend Mass schedule that doesn’t overlap with the other 2 local parishes.

At the time, here’s what the city Mass schedule looked like:

  • 3 Saturday evening Masses all within 30 minutes of each other
  • 7 Sunday morning Masses
  • 1 Sunday afternoon Spanish Mass
  • 1 Sunday evening Mass

Here’s what the schedule looks like now:

  • 3 Saturday evening Masses all within 30 minutes of each other
  • 8 Sunday morning Masses, one of which is bilingual

The reasons why these changes were necessary:

  1. Our parish is down from 2 priests to 1 and there simply isn’t enough energy at the end of a long weekend to do a Sunday evening Mass.
  2. The Sunday evening Mass was drawing more people from the other parishes than mine.

Hmmm…. what’s wrong with this picture?

The thing is… both of those ideas up top would make the workload of the priest easier… if you let it.  Sure… it’s messy and chaotic getting to a place where people own their church and their faith but…

… isn’t that the mission of the Church?

Why would I want to be part of a church where my voice doesn’t count?
Tell me… if you can.

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About Elaine Menardi

Heading off on a new adventure! I solve problems and make ideas happen.

2 responses »

  1. Rox says:

    I’m in the process of trying to develop a new relationship with Church, big C. In January, with the direction of the Holy Spirit and Edwina Gateley, http://www.edwinagateley.com/, I did stop attending Mass. I dropped some baggage at the door and I looked around outside the church, in the forest cathedral, as she said. I recognized I was allowing the dysfunction inside the church, with the leadership, interfere with my relationship with God. I believe I need to refine my relationship with the church. I’m not going to make a difference there. The “ministries” in which I saw opportunity for involvement were either misguided or at the wrong time and place. In the 4 months I didn’t attend, I wasn’t missed. So, I have looked for other places to be fed, other ways to reach out in areas that I feel are necessary and guess what….. they aren’t church affiliated. Also, there is a wealth of organizations of people who feel just like me and they are moving forward, creating their own way to praise and worship God, offering community, welcoming me and doing the work. I want to be part of them….. But I have returned to Mass, if less frequently, for the Eucharist. I imagine all the people of the world celebrating together, I picture all of them and let the institutional church fade from view. It helps.
    As someone close to me said, “Mass is important, but I got over the church years ago.” It is a difficult journey.

    As far as the Mass schedule, I am in the same city, it is all about them and not the parishioners. They use the term Tri-parish, which is laughable, because they are territorial and not willing to work together. And we lost the one Mass in which I could actually feel the engagement and spirit in the congregation.

  2. Yes, it is a difficult journey… and I too long for the day when it becomes a real home again. Until then, I guess we go where our spirits can be fed. Perhaps one day, we will feel like we are returning home.

    Peace my friend 🙂

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