8: Coming Together
Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others. Colossians 3:23
…for I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35
The first Apostle were charged with the task of gathering followers and building the Church. They worked tirelessly to evangelize, gather, unite and support believers. Nearly two thousand years later our mission is the same. Sometimes building things is tricky work and very often re-building can be even more of a challenge. The Catholic Church is in a season of change, and many are experiencing growing pains as parishes merge and blend communities of believers.
If you are a parish in the midst of change it’s important to know there are typical stages to the transitions. Being aware of the different phases of closings, mergers and re-building can help the process. It’s really important to remember that change is highly emotional and not everyone processes those emotions at the same pace and with the same intensity. The circumstances may differ greatly but there is a commonality in the process. The stages typically experienced are; denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and finally acceptance. Once people reach the final stage; transition, compromise and peace can begin to blossom.
As parishes blend, it in essence, creates a whole new parish. As parishes re-build, representation from all the combined parishes is necessary otherwise it will feel like separate parish families under one roof. People need to feel like they have value and a place to fit rather than simply being plugged in to the existing framework. There has to be an atmosphere of starting new; much like the stories from the Acts of the Apostles, everyone must come together with one common goal; to share the Sacraments and a faith life rooted in a love of Jesus. Communication is vital for a successful merger and when something as personal as faith and worship is the focus, it becomes even more crucial. Here are a few ideas to begin the conversation:
- Recall a memory of your parish and your family’s faith life there. What did you treasure most about your parish?
- Where are you in the stages of transition? (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance)
- As you have prayed about this transition, how do you see the Father’s plan at work?*
- How are we doing with welcoming others into this new parish family?
- Who are those who feel like strangers and how will we reach out to them?
- How can we combine our gifts, talents and passions to evangelize and build God’s kingdom?
- What is helping, what is hurting?
- Is everyone represented in parish leadership? Does each culture have a voice and a presence in the parish?
- Have traditions and cultural devotions been integrated into the liturgy and faith life of the parish?
The discussion should be frequent, ongoing and rooted firmly in prayer. Jesus calmed the sea and he will bring the same calm and peace where he is invited. Pray for the process, pray for each other and know that compromise made in the name of Jesus will always bear fruit. A final word of wisdom, remember it isn’t “our” parish or “your” parish, it’s HIS house made up of HIS children who have all come to praise and worship HIS Holy Name.
Thank you for reading and may God bless you richly as you continue on this journey to Entertain Angels.
Adam Janke & Sheri Wolhfert