Shalom Place Community
How do you connect with the Church?
09 February 2003, 02:47 PMPhil
How do you connect with the Church?
Anyone seriously committed to living a Christian life knows that staying connected somehow to the Church is of the utmost importance. I'm using the word Church, here, to mean the Christian community, which of course includes all of the Christian denominations.
A major struggle for many--especially those who've experienced religious abuse--is finding a way to connect with the Church which doen't aggravate old wounds. Others (self included) find the regimen offered in a typical parish community to be less than what is needed to feed my mind and spirit, sacramental celebrations notwithstanding.
So our thread question: how do you connect with the Church?
What follows are a few teasers copied from a few threads on this discussion board:
There remains a diversity of ministry even with our unity of mission and, quite frankly, ... ... ... I have no apologies to those who would remake me into their extroverted, feel good, gregarious, codependent-like do-gooding image [mad] I'm part of the community ANYWAY, in my hermitage or cell. Pass me another swig of honey to wash down this wild locust. (Johnboy)
One of the things I've wanted to do, and have inquired about among several parishes, is a prayer group. Of course, belonging as a regular member is probably the first step in being able to form this group with other interested people. The real pain for me, though, is finding over and over again that the church isn't a family. It's not that I'm naive enough to believe I'll find that, but what I see mostly are a lot of families being the most regular participants, showing up with their children, etc. (w.c.)
What might be helpful is to recognize that belonging to the Church means much more than being active in a parish. There are all sorts of other ways of connecting with the mission and ministry of the Church, the most meaningful in my own life being retreat ministry. That is where I find community, enrichment, and a living experience of Church.
The important thing, I believe, is this commitment to the mission and ministry of the Church, and the recognition that one is a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, blessed with gifts to use for the building up of the Body. There are all kinds of ways of doing that, I'm convinced. (Phil)
15 February 2003, 08:41 PMWanda
May I offer a few thoughts to this discussion?
Johnboy.. I agree... you can be a part of the community without being present with the community. I believe it was Merton who said, "The more we are alone with God the more we are united with one another."
w.c. I disagee with the idea that the church is not a family. It is probably more like most families than we care to admit...having black sheep, bores, self-righteous busybodies, people we simply don't like and also those we like a lot. A perfect family it may not be.. but then is there such a beast?
"The important thing, I believe, is this commitment to the mission and ministry of the Church, and the recognition that one is a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, blessed with gifts to use for the building up of the Body. There are all kinds of ways of doing that, I'm convinced."
I agree Phil and some of these too involve building community. Take this place. There are a core group of regulars that "meet" her fairly regularly... offering their thoughts and struggles to any who drop by. Now, while I wouldn't call this a church necessarily, I do think it could be called a ministry and not only your ministry but also a type of ministry of all those who stop by. While it's not a church... I do recall hearing a bit of preaching here... a little scripture... a (non-traditional) hymn or two... with lots of fellowship and love thrown in.
I would be very surprised if there weren't quite a few prayers offered on behalf of each other as well.
I think if you're going to talk about staying connected to the Church.. it would be good to start with a discussion of just what is Church.
What is necessary for a place to be called Church?
Anyone want to offer a definition?
16 February 2003, 01:52 AMjohnboy
What is necessary for a place to be called Church? Anyone want to offer a definition?
Hi Wanda. Thanks for your comments.
Well, there is the Mystical Body of Christ
, to me, the most broadly conceived notion of Church, including all people living in grace, of all faiths and ideologies, our solidarity with all peoples, so to speak and I feel a connect there.
Then, there are those who share The Creed
, Nicene and Apostles', and I feel connected there.
Then there is my Roman Catholic Tradition of Scripture and Tradition and Magisterium and I feel connected there, in manifold ways, especially as I relate personally to the many different spiritualities lived out by our various religious orders and as articulated in the writings of our saints and mystics. And there is also that way in which this faith is lived out in different ways by those of the many different cultures and ethnic groups that I feel connected to; seeing the similarities in worship against the backdrop of such diversity drives the point home vis a vis our great solidarity and belongingness.
There is also my history of involvement in a series of Church Parishes where I received my formation and the sacraments and this is much intertwined with my extended family, that consanguinal family of Cajun Catholics that has its unique cultural shared experience in the manner that we approach celebrations throughout the liturgical year. I feel connected to the Italian Catholic experience, especially the Sicilian, vis a vis my marriage into a family that has both the French and Italian roots. I enjoy immersion in the Irish Catholic tradition too by way of big St. Patrick's Day celebrations and by the presence of so many Irish priests in my local church's history.
Then, there is a special connect with my local parish as regarding the formation and sacramental preparation of my children. I think this becomes a big reconnect for many young couples who may have been off to college and even "out of the church" for awhile. There is an element of cultural and social amenities, to be sure, and I think that is okay. There is that larger element of truly wanting to prepare and equip my children with a worldview and a system of living that will enrich their lives and protect them from the many perils and evils that lie in their path. Out of great love for my children, I passionately want to gift them with my faith.
And, so, my biggest experience of connectedness comes with my spouse and children, the domestic church, the smallest unit of the Body of Christ, next to us as individual cells. Praying and worshipping together. Celebrating our liturgical calendar together. Going through the Rites of Passage: I have one being confirmed in three weeks and one making their First Communion. It takes me back to the feelings of becoming part of the community, not being left behind in the pew.
And as I age, the attendance at funerals increases ... ... what can I say ... ... these are poignantly beautiful and painful ... ... watching my children suffer the grief of friends taken before their time or weeping copiously at the loss of their grandparents ... ... watching the community elders go on to their reward and feeling like I have inherited their stewardship a tad. Babysitting so my wife can teach Catechism once a week makes me feel connected. My annual retreat with the Men of Manresa makes me feel connected. The Internet makes me feel connected. Praying, alone, or reading alone, or listening to Catholic media, all reinforce my connectedness.
Church comes at me from so many angles that I really don't feel any compartmentalization or any secular-sacred dichotomy. Part of my life is apostolic. Part is sort of cenobitic. Increasingly, part is even eremitic. That's the great thing about Catholicism. It is pluralistic by definition and has something for every age and temperament and, yes, even gender -- though that sometimes feels like our weakest link, the gender and sex-related issues. Even that shared struggle for solidarity connects me with a progressive thrust, grounded nonetheless in our conservative contribution to the Mystical Body and the world.
And, there's a whole lot more.
17 February 2003, 05:06 PMPhil
Welcome back, Wanda. You've been missed! I hope you'll drop in more often, as your studies permit.
Not much to say, here, after JB's thorough reflection on different nuances of Church. A summary statement for me would be that it has to do with Christian community, somehow, which mediates a living encounter with Christ through its members in a way that we cannot obtain on our own. This might not even be explicitly recognized or acknowledged by those who are connecting with it, however.
What is your response to JB's statement? And what are your studies teaching you about this? You had broached the topic sometime back, so I know it's one that's close to your heart.
18 February 2003, 04:23 PMWanda
Yes, Phil.. it is one close to my heart.
You had offered this and I find it resonates with me as well....."A summary statement for me would be that it has to do with Christian community, somehow, which mediates a living encounter with Christ through its members in a way that we cannot obtain on our own. This might not even be explicitly recognized or acknowledged by those who are connecting with it, however."
Let me offer an example.... As most have heard we had a major snow storm here... (here is Lancaster Theological Seminary,Lancaster, PA..)... anyhow the storm hit on Sunday morning and by Monday morning had dumped a couple of feet of snow.. with a bit of drifting to boot. It was absolutely beautiful but it also presented some problems.. one being these mounds that our cars had become in the parking area. Sitting in my room dreading the task of digging out, I hear one of the others here.. asking for my keys... seems several had decided to get some exercise and dig everyone out. Well I gave him my keys and pulled on boots and gloves and all of that and went out to join them... and I was not alone... what began as 3 grew to 20 people shoveling, snowblowing, digging, laughing.. Could this be called church? I think maybe so... the active church.. living out of who we are.
johnboy.. I too celebrate the institution of the church.. or most of the time anyhow (grin). My formation.. my understanding of what it means to live as church comes from the teachings and traditions and sacraments of the Episcopal.. but is there a difference in being a church and living as church? I think maybe so... and I also think that living as church goes beyond/transcends the denominational boundaries and separations that the institutional church can impose.
Question: Can a church.. a community truly be considered a church if those within it don't live it... don't take the teachings and understandings out into the world.. don't allow the Word and Sacrament to transform them/unite them with the world outside?
19 February 2003, 02:37 PMPhil
Wanda, I think the example you gave about people shoveling snow together can be an experience of Church, at least implicitly. (Years ago I learned the meaning of the words "implicit" and "explicit" and so whenever I want to weasel out of making tough distinctions, I use the one or the other or both somehow.
You asked: Can a church.. a community truly be considered a church if those within it don't live it... don't take the teachings and understandings out into the world.. don't allow the Word and Sacrament to transform them/unite them with the world outside?
Not a very effective one, for sure. But that would include every denomination/Christian faith tradition, to some extent, and so where to draw the line regarding which are not *really Church* would be hard to do.
It might also be that some traditions/communities emphasize some aspects of the Christian life more than others. Those which, for example, place a high premium on social justice and community service might tend to consider others which emphasize evangelization of the Word and teaching Scripture to be not really "with it."
The more it goes with me, the more I'm inclined to think that the Lord not only makes use of it all, but actually needs them all. I also wonder if any one denomination could effectively serve the Christian mission as successfully as we do as a whole. So while on the one hand I wish there were more unity among Christians, on the other I think our diversity might not be such a bad thing, especially if we avail ourselves of each other's riches. It warms my heart to see Protestants turning to our Catholic mystical tradition for resources lacking in theirs, and feeling free to remain Methodist, Lutheran, etc. And we Catholics have an awful lot to learn about community-building from evangelicals.
The problem comes in when we start tearing each other down, although a certain amount of criticizing can actually be healthy. Still, there's been an awful lot of anti-Catholicism coming out of fundamentalist and evangelical quarters during the past three decades, and some of it has hurt the Church as a whole. We've done our bashing of them as well. There are parts of this which don't deserve to be called Church, but even there I'm not sure where to draw the lines.
19 February 2003, 05:06 PMjohnboy
Well said, Phil. It used to be said that Protestants were long on evangelization and short on catechesis, that Catholics were long on catechesis and short on evangelization. There is much more balance nowadays. Also, we cannot forget e pluribus unum, 1 Cor 12, many gifts - one Spirit, the temperament types, the vocational paths of apostolic, cenobitic and eremitic, of clerical versus religious versus laity versus secular orders, of the multiplicity of spiritualities as evidenced by our many religious orders with their specific emphases, individual charisms, etc There are many ways to take Word and Sacrament out into the world, including that prophetic witness of leaving the world and going into solitude.
This brings up the related issue of what form our evangelization might take. Should it include aggressive proselytizing, such as by Catholics among the Hindu faiths of India? Was missionary activity of old, on this very continent, enlightened or informed? For an example, read An Expedition to the Guaycura Nation: Chapter 7: Heavenly Calculations by Jim & Tyra Arraj
Also, we have the admonition attributed to St. Francis to evangelize on every possible occasion and, if necessary, to use words.
I think the trick is broadly conceiving these notions, looking at spiritual matters pluralistically, which is to say catholically
(with a little "c"), and to do everything in the name of the Lord with no artificial compartmentalizations between the secular and sacred, being in the world, always, but not of it, always.
19 February 2003, 07:54 PMWanda
Being in this place has brought both struggles and a few insights. Lancaster is a UCC Seminary in the Reformed tradition... which is their "high" church. The people here are of from many different traditions though.. UCC, Methodist, Presbyterian, a Unitarian or two, Mennonite...it's a very diverse community. I am the "token" Episcopalian.
When I think of the church.... I think of the image of the vine and branches. Christ is the vine and the many different churches the branches.
If we follow this image we run into the passage that says that if the branch does not bear fruit it will be cut off. Could it not follow then that as long as the "church" bears fruit.. it is valid... a part of the Body?
Does it matter how it bears fruit... by example, by words and teachings, or by service? Aren't each of these ways that can and do lead to the bearing of fruit.. to the building up of the Church?
Anyhow.. am not back to the early father's words on redemption, incarnation and atonement.. just a little light reading to pass the time (grin).