Our Open Forum went very well last night. It is my hope that these forums, which I think we should schedule at least twice a year, will provide an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak through everyone as we work together to make our parish the best it can be for the Lord. At yesterday’s forum, we discussed a wide range of pastoral issues, including worship, almsgiving and hospitality.
Regarding worship, we have some parishioners who prefer more traditional practices, are happy to see some such practices return to our parish after many years’ absence, and hope to see even more return in the future. Other parishioners prefer a more modern approach to both worship and the use of our church, and expressed concern about the return of some older elements of Catholic worship. Perhaps the best approach is for us to find a happy medium somewhere between the traditional approach and the modern approach.
Regarding almsgiving, some participants expressed their hopefulness as we form a conference of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, while other parishioners noted their concerns about how this development could adversely affect other parish efforts on behalf of the poor. There was concern about our reduction of funding to a local social services agency for this fiscal year, with our parish donation now down to just a few thousand dollars per year. There were also concerns expressed about how alterations in our service to the poor could adversely affect our reputation in Oak Ridge. I propose that we all keep working together as a parish to find the very best ways to do the most we possibly can to care the poor.
Finally, regarding hospitality, participants offered some amazing suggestions. One suggestion was to provide greeters at the church doors to welcome all our parishioners and visitors as they arrive for Mass. I think this is a beautiful idea! What can we do now to make it a reality as soon as possible? Another suggestion was to find ways to be more attentive to our new parishioners, helping them easily find their place in our parish community. Should we assign a “mentor” to each new parishioner? It’s an idea worth considering, along with similar ideas. At any rate, we should certainly do as much as we possibly can as a parish to welcome our new members and our many visitors.
I would like to recommend a few books to help guide our pastoral planning. (A.) Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter, (B.) Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish, and (C.) Growing an Engaged Church: How to Stop “Doing Church” and Start Being the Church Again, are all excellent “conversation starters”, with each book taking a different approach to parish rejuvenation. If you get a chance to read one or more of these, I’d love to hear what you think.