Around the corner from my home, there is a Catholic Church. It’s a neighborhood parish serving a mostly immigrant population. It’s a small building so it’s never going to be a huge congregation. It’s tucked in the neighborhood as a reminder that community can happen here. The people of God gather here. On Saturday evenings, when mass is celebrated, the narrow streets are clogged with cars as a reminder that the parishioners don’t live in the neighborhood anymore. They come from other places in the city. (I might also witness this on Sunday morning but I’m never home then because, you know, I’m kinda busy then.) This little Catholic Church is a reminder of how religion has changed. This apparently makes lots of people nervous. Or at least, that’s what I have heard from those that I serve in another neighborhood. It’s the same nervous energy that I’m sure inspired this little Catholic Church to post a sign that pleads: Catholics Come Home.
This is apparently a campaign that the Vatican has launched to inspire those that have wandered from their Catholic home into other congregations (like for example the United Church of Christ) to come back to their roots. The problem is that it sounds so desperate. It’s begging. There’s no two ways about it. It’s desperate begging that subtly relays that the Church is dying. It’s not overt. It’s very subtle but it’s not exactly the most extravagant welcome that my denomination attempts to offer. Instead, it pleads. We need you. We can’t survive without you. It’s not something you want to hear from an ex-boyfriend or a church. It just sounds pitiful. And yet, it’s pervasive. It’s the subtle message we get every time Protestants refer to the decline of the mainline, but I really hope that’s not what we are all about. It’s not just because I love Diana Butler Bass’ perspective on the awakening happening in the Church. It’s my hope that the Church really does see itself as a reminder that community can happen here.
I want the Church to figure out a way to inspire individuals to explore their faith — even if that means it takes them outside of the doors of the Church — so that they can find deeper communion with God. No matter what tradition (or non-tradition) ends up being their home, I hope that the Church can be a place where we can ask those crucial questions about where God is in our lives. I hope that the Church will be a place where we send people out to find God in the world because she is already there, but a colleague has already said this so much better than I can. So, if you feel that the church is begging for your money or your attendance, I hope you’ll read this lovely article on the Huffington Post. And may God bless you on your journey.