I freely admit that I am not the world’s biggest Beatles fan. However, over the last few months, the refrain from their song “Come Together” has been echoing in my mind. I like to imagine Jesus singing it over and over to us as we try to figure out how we can make pastoral planning bear lasting fruit.
We get so bogged down in our worries about protecting our turf and clinging to the familiar that we can’t recognize the great opportunities right before our eyes. We lose sight of what we have in common and the many ways the gifts of others enrich our own. Worst of all, we forget that we are called to “come together” over Christ.
A recent article in America magazine touched on some of the benefits, as well as the challenges, of increasingly diverse parishes and Catholic schools. My biggest takeaway from the article was how woefully unprepared we are, in general, to accept and embrace that the face of the Church is changing. All the data and projections tell us that change is happening, but we fail to prepare ourselves and our parishes for it.
When we fail to prepare ourselves for change, we tend to react instead of respond. It becomes really easy to create divisions around “us” and “them.” Rather than coming together, we drift further apart.
The Be Missionary Disciples pastoral planning effort is pushing us to consider how we can be stronger together. It also is pushing us to think about how much more present Christ can be in our midst when we not only accept but glory in the gifts that new faces bring to our communities: not just faces with a variety of skin tones, but also the faces of teens and millennials, the faces of adults who are returning to the Church after a long absence, and the faces of the poor and outcast. And yes, even the faces of people from that parish down the road that we “have never gotten along with.” They all have gifts to share and we all can be enriched by them.
It’s time to come together over Christ.
I will leave you with this:
There is an Episcopal church that I drive by every day on my way to work that has done an amazing thing. They have united with a congregation of Lutherans from a church down the road. Both recognized that in order to continue the mission in their area they needed to join forces. Remarkably, they are making this work while still maintaining their denominational distinctiveness. I constantly find myself wondering: if two different denominations can come together to collaborate in mission while preserving their diversity and identity, then why can’t two Catholic parishes?
In a WYPR interview, the pastors of these churches observed that, among other things, one of the benefits of this arrangement has been that “singing together is different” because there is a “joyfuller noise.”
They might not be singing Beatles songs, but I bet Jesus is tapping along with his foot!