A finder’s religion

I wrote this on my Facebook page, but I think it is worth posting here:

i have often thought of our little Ordinariate parish community of faith as a finder’s religion. It’s an oasis and pearl of great price for people who have been searching for a long time and found, finally, beautiful liturgy, reverent worship, great meaty preaching, priests who believe what they pray and proclaim in the Liturgy of the Word, a community open to the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, and Catholic Communion.
 
Yet I was so benefited by exposure to a seeker’s religion, a Baptist Church that chose to be seeker-friendly so as not to scare off the self-admitted heretics and cafeteria Christians embracing all kinds of false ideas like I was until Kanata Baptist Church loved me out of them and exposed me to the crucial basics of the Christian faith. We are at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary the “deep end” of the pool; Kanata Baptist provided a “shallow end” with lots of “deep end” lifeguards there to ensure nobody drowned even in a few feet of water. I wonder had I not had the preparation, the “swimming training” at Kanata Baptist if I would have been able to recognize the worship at Annunciation for what I see it as now, the worship of heaven? Or would I have run off, dismayed there are no women in the sanctuary, that people recite prayers from a book, and the Eucharist is only open to Catholics in good standing?
 
So, how do we who have a closed Communion, provide a shallow end for seekers? One way we are trying out is to have twice a month Evensong followed by a reception. It’s a good liturgical celebration to invite people to that does not require you to say, “oh, but you should not go forward for Communion” since it isn’t a Mass.
 
I love what St. Benedict’s in Halifax does—they use the Alpha Course to evangelize people, and get them involved in Connect Groups so they can be further prepared for reception of the sacraments. This parish ensures people are included and mentored and brought to a personal relationship with Christ.
 
Your thoughts?
I also wonder if Pope Francis is shifting the Catholic Church’s focus to the shallow end of the pool, and to those Catholics who jumped out of the water after having swallowed some and nearly choked, or who were dunked or pushed or thrown in the deep end when they were not ready.
The key for Kanata Baptist’s success was the well-trained leadership, the devout Christians who shepherded the seekers and exposed them to true doctrine after their conversion to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
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5 Responses to A finder’s religion

  1. Timothy Graham says:

    I think you are certainly right to say that the unchurched are not meant to be evangelised at the Eucharist. The story of the famous slum priest Fr Robert Dolling’s Vespers celebrations is fascinating – he would have a ceremonial Vespers in cope etc., followed by an evangelical sermon, often informal and sitting on the altar step. And then the people would sing a revivalist type hymn or two. One senses that there is no space in the modern Catholic church for an evangelist of this kind precisely because there is no public worship other than the Eucharist.

  2. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    You wrote: i have often thought of our little Ordinariate parish community of faith as a finder’s religion. It’s an oasis and pearl of great price for people who have been searching for a long time and found, finally, beautiful liturgy, reverent worship, great meaty preaching, priests who believe what they pray and proclaim in the Liturgy of the Word, a community open to the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, and Catholic Communion.

    Yet I was so benefited by exposure to a seeker’s religion, a Baptist Church that chose to be seeker-friendly so as not to scare off the self-admitted heretics and cafeteria Christians embracing all kinds of false ideas like I was until Kanata Baptist Church loved me out of them and exposed me to the crucial basics of the Christian faith….

    Yes, I understand completely. As a young adult, I found my encounters with evangelical Christians to be extremely helpful in clarifying what is central and what is peripheral in our faith, and I have known many people who have left the Catholic Church for various (mostly evangelical) Protestant congregations where they discovered that clarity. Catholic catechesis before the Second Vatican Council often left people so muddied doctrinally that they lost sight the central issues and focused on something peripheral instead — for example, losing sight of Christ and focusing instead on Mary or another saint, often giving rise to what the Vatican once called “exaggerated” Marian devotion or cult of the saints. The reality here is that a Christian body needs to be both a place where seekers find true faith and a place where those who are of the faith grow more deeply into it. Here, catechesis must be clear as to what is central and what is peripheral, and must ensure that each member of the church has a clear understanding of the central realities of the faith, developing a clear submission to the Lord himself, before moving on to more peripheral issues.

    There’s a related issue that’s very problematic in many dioceses. Many Catholic parishes still fail to provide any sort of formation beyond their programs of basic catechetical formation, making it extremely difficult for those who wish to do so to go deeper into the faith. Related to this, there is still a prevalent attitude that going into greater depth is the province of the clergy and religious, and not of the common lay men and women. The result is that the laity may be in the deeper end of the pool, but the majority are treading water when they should be swimming and learning the methods of lifesaving.

    You wrote: So, how do we who have a closed Communion, provide a shallow end for seekers? One way we are trying out is to have twice a month Evensong followed by a reception. It’s a good liturgical celebration to invite people to that does not require you to say, “oh, but you should not go forward for Communion” since it isn’t a Mass.

    This question reflects a critical difference between the liturgical tradition and the evangelical tradition.

    * In the liturgical tradition, the liturgy is primarily a forum of worship for those who are already believers — and this is true not only of the eucharist, but also of the divine office and the celebration of the other sacraments. Sacramental communion, in particular, is an expression of complete unity in faith. Where that degree unity does not yet exist, reception of communion would be a false sign.

    * In the evangelical tradition, a service is primarily a forum to preach the Word of God to those who are not yet fully converted with the objective of bringing them to faith. If people come forward during the service at all, it is most likely to be an “altar call” in which they are coming forward to make, or to renew, a commitment of faith. This is frequently augmented by “bible study

    The essence here is that we need to provide a suitable forum for those who, in your analogy, are still not ready to venture into the deep end of the pool, and we also need proactive evangelical outreach to those who are not even into the pool yet. The Second Vatican Council basically advocated this in the strongest possible terms in the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes (on “the church in the modern world”), but some dioceses have made much more progress than others on its implementation.

    You wrote: I also wonder if Pope Francis is shifting the Catholic Church’s focus to the shallow end of the pool, and to those Catholics who jumped out of the water after having swallowed some and nearly choked, or who were dunked or pushed or thrown in the deep end when they were not ready.

    That is certainly where the rubber of Christian formation meets the road of discipleship!

    You continued: The key for Kanata Baptist’s success was the well-trained leadership, the devout Christians who shepherded the seekers and exposed them to true doctrine after their conversion to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Yes, well-trained leadership — both clergy and lay — and focus on a personal relationship with the Lord are absolutely crucial. More importantly, pastors of parishes must understand that it is their mission to train the laity of their parishes to participate in the mission of evangelism and formation of disciples of the risen Lord.

    Norm.

  3. EPMS says:

    I think that seekers can be drawn to the beauty and mystery of liturgy and doctrine even if many aspects of both are opaque to them. But they must feel that their desire to understand and participate is welcomed, even if it turns out to be a slow process. If it is evident that the congregation, or its leadership, derives satisfaction from a sense of exclusivity, those who are excluded will not linger. “Nothing here for the likes of you,” is an attitude one can detect in too many congregations, of many different denominations.

  4. EPMS says:

    I recently saw a notice in a Sunday bulletin reminding people, in bold italics, NOT to come forward for a blessing at Communion time if they were not receiving Communion. Reference was made to an “archdiocesan document” but I have found many references to coming forward for a blessing in parish bulletinns in the same archdiocese, so I am confused. The notice struck me as pretty cold.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      EPMS,

      You wrote: If it is evident that the congregation, or its leadership, derives satisfaction from a sense of exclusivity, those who are excluded will not linger. “Nothing here for the likes of you,” is an attitude one can detect in too many congregations, of many different denominations.

      And again: I recently saw a notice in a Sunday bulletin reminding people, in bold italics, NOT to come forward for a blessing at Communion time if they were not receiving Communion. Reference was made to an “archdiocesan document” but I have found many references to coming forward for a blessing in parish bulletinns in the same archdiocese, so I am confused. The notice struck me as pretty cold.

      Unfortunately, clueless pastors who drive people away from the church abound in some dioceses — and they do a gross disservice to all involved. The scriptures clearly teach that more is expected from those to whom more is given — and that is especially true of those who receive theological training and seminary formation for pastoral ministry! My perception is that the day of judgement will not go well for them unless they repent of the harm that they do.

      It’s instructive that, in the gospels, the only people that our Lord ever sends away wanting are the Sadducees and the Pharisees — the religious leaders of his time. If we are to follow his example, we must welcome those whose lives are steeped in sin with mercy and compassion. We should call those who are steeped in habitual sin to repentance while maintaining realistic expectations of human spiritual growth.

      Norm.

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