As we begin to re-open our churches, I am reminded by writers of different disciplines who note that the temporary closure should actually be seen as a wake-up call for our future. Over these last weeks, I have had plenty of opportunity to discern that warning and think about what that actually means for us here at St Teresa.
I am reminded of the words from the PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD, GAUDIUM ET SPES, from DECEMBER 7, 1965, which says in its Preface:
"The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts ... Theirs is a community ... United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every [one]."
The echo in our hearts in these days of lockdown has provided a prayerful space for us to wrestle with our own hopes, griefs, and anxieties, and those of others. In short, with everything taken away or severely restricted, these weeks have foisted us to return to the heart of the Gospel - which challenges all the baptized to bring the Good News of Jesus to an anxious world. There is no doubt in my mind, though, that to be successful we will need a new plan, a different strategy, new eyes, and an openness to the renewal of the Spirit that is taking place right now, even despite our denial or resistance. Some have called this a transition from maintenance to mission.
As I noted a few weeks ago, our staff and finance council have been thinking through these matters with the assistance of Lee Kricher's book, For A New Generation, A Practical Guide for Revitalizing Your Church. Kricher uses these five themes for this analysis:
Over the next five weeks, I will share with you some of my own thoughts and ideas, and I invite you to do the same. With the help of the parish planning committee and finance council, we will develop a strategy for us to not only open our doors, but more importantly open our hearts to the workings of the Holy Spirit here in our midst.
As we proceed, we may find comfort in the words of St Teresa of Avila, our patroness, who said: "God withholds Himself from no one who perseveres." Together, let's persevere to not only re-open, but rebuild our Church so that the news of salvation can be shared with everyone.
Blessings to you and your loved ones today and always!