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The Parish As a House of Formation for Lay Apostles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 17:10
The whole concept of the parish as a house of formation for lay apostles. It's being discussed in interesting places and not just by us.

First of all Deacon James Kennedy's thoughtful essay in Envoy here. (Note: Envoy magazine is now part of the Envoy Institute at Belmont College in North Carolina).

Here's an excerpt:

Where real Eucharistic community exists, one sees fruit in bold public witness. If I think my Catholicism is private, I would be unwilling to risk my job, profession, or, in the case of politicians, an elected office, in order to stand up for what is true. Why should I risk all only to find that no one is there to help restore my life and pick up the pieces when my witness to Christ has been rejected and I am fired or lose an election. Barring negligence or fanaticism, it should be the rule of the Catholic community to support any layman spiritually, economically, and emotionally when authentic witness to the Gospel costs him or her dearly in the secular world. Without such a community rule, who would reasonably risk public sanction? The Pope informs us that "all the members of the People of God — clergy, men and women religious, the lay faithful — are laborers in the vineyard. At one and the same time they all are the goal and subjects of Church communion as well as of participation in the mission of salvation. Every one of us possessing charisms and ministries, diverse yet complementary, works in the one and the same vineyard of the Lord" (CL 55). So we need to first develop community through sacramental worship, charitable service, and formation in the Word of God and then send people forth to be leaven in the secular world.

Then over at Koinonia, there is this intriguing Orthodox version of the same conversation where Fr. Gregory Jensen writes:

What I am purposing is this: Taking seriously the concerned outlined by Nichols, Neuhaus, MacIntrye and others could we not as Orthodox Christians (and, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical Christians could do this as well), establishes mission communities whose mission is not to grow, but to form missionaries, lay catechists, seminarians, monastics vocations and above all active lay Christians committed to the work of the Church in all areas of life?

and from the comments:

When I wrote “An Immodest Proposal” what I had in mind was not so much an academic community as it was a mission parish that would be established with the intention of focusing on the catechetical and spiritual formation of men and women as disciples of Christ. This formation would be guided by the tradition of the Orthodox Church certainly, but it would also be open to the insights of other Christian traditions as well as different secular arts and sciences.

What would I think make this mission unique would be the willingness of the community to focus not on its own numerical and material growth, but rather to have no more as a community than necessary to fulfill its fundamental mission: To create Orthodox Christians disciples for Jesus Christ.

We've been babbling about this everywhere we have gone for the past decade. (For more, check out our presentation in Rome on the subject The Parish: Mission or Maintenance?

Much as I resonant deeply with writers like Russell Shaw, James Kennedy, and Fr. Gregory, it seems from their writing that they are describing an ideal whose need they see very clearly - but which they either have not seen happen in real life or have seen only rarely (for instance, Kennedy's reference to the vibrant adult Sunday school in his parish).

The good news is that it is really happening out there. In real parishes. Not perfectly. Partially, Often stumbling and uncertain. But really. And lives are really being changed.

In places like San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Boise, Ann Arbor, Manchester, New Hampshire, Greenville, Colorado Springs, and even merry old London.

Feel free to let the rest of us know about great lay formation going on in your parish!

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