I know what I don't want it to be or even 'be-come'.
I don't want it to come across as complaining or soapboxing.
I've done enough of that through the years and I know I tend to gravitate in that direction.
I apologize ahead of time if it comes across as such.
Yesterday at Mass we heard a 'report'
It was shared by a lay person and concerned the state of the diocese which is in the middle of a 'pastoral plan'
I know the approach, I used it many times. Have a lay person share with the congregation the report and its concerns. It is a different voice and it may resonate with them and they may be 'inspired'.
Obviously I have a history. I am not your 'typical' lay person. For that matter, I'm not really sure what my place is in the 'people of God.' And, my lovely wife has experienced it in her soul as well. While it has been an incredible journey for our family, it hasn't been without its difficult moments.
I sat in the pew and thought of all the planning sessions, breakout groups, renewal projects and pastoral plans that I have been privy to through the years--both in the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions. I thought of the countless fund raisers that were connected to the lived expression of the faith (so people would commit more i suppose). I recalled my wife and I sitting in small groups and sessions trying to plan a congregation's future and inspire ministry.
I remembered hearing of paradigm shifts and new wine and old wineskins and renews and missions.
Contracts and payments are made with outside think tanks and even special software developers. I recall one parish where I worked where a computerized time clock became the measure of ministry.
Yesterday I was told--
-Change has to happen.
-A comprehensive pastoral plan needs to be enacted.
-Evangelization and faith formation and pastoral care--all key words and areas that need to be addressed in a collaborative fashion.
It could have been a report from any number of 'pastoral plans' that I was part of over the past 25 years. There was nothing new.
Is there an archivist who could pull out the old plans dust them off and reset the dates? Think of the money saved--then throw a party for each parish? Better yet, use the money to address immediate pastoral concerns--violence outbreak and abuse? Funnel the funding to a different process instead of doing the same thing every 10-15 years?
I heard one statistic that I fear already summed up the future of this latest program before it even has a chance to take off. It was hidden in the list of statistics--68+-
68+- people responded to the initial survey question out of hundreds--for just this parish (which is somewhat Vatican II in it's lay involvement so you think you would have had more).
Yep 68 +- --this might qualify as best a blip in statistical analysis.
Everything is down--baptisms, communions, confirmations, active priests---all significantly reduced in the past five years and the forecast is not good.
Granted, there are many many factors. Many that cannot be controlled.
But here is the moment I had, and I am not sure what to do with it..
At this particular Mass sat three inactive priests--in the congregation.
Then I wondered--how many others were in this congregation that perhaps just can't do anything because things are simply the way they are.
I am not calling for married clergy running parishes. I believe in the gift and presence of celibacy as part of the fabric of priesthood. But maybe just maybe there is something else out there other than another 'pastoral plan' or another 'mission statement' or another book on how to become a parish.
We don't need a pastoral plan.
We need a reform.
We need Jesus.
We need to do the basics--not because we need vibrant parishes that will be inevitably restructured--but because our eternal salvation depends on it!
We don't need new fancy youth ministry and faith formation programs--we need models of inspiration. We need leaders who are not afraid to risk change rooted in the truth of the Gospel.
Maybe we don't need parishes and schools. Maybe that time has come and gone. (There I said it)
Maybe we simply need to have someplace to gather, to celebrate sacraments, pray, fast, and live the Word.
So... do we need another plan or do we need reform?