Several quotes from the book, The New Parish, have captured my attention based on my work with a congregational visioning team and recent conversations with people connected our “Do What Matters” conferences. Listed below are quotes from the book that challenge my assumptions and stretch my imaginations.
- The parish is a dare to your faith. The author writes, “Your parish is a relational microcosm that helps bring many cause-and-effect relationships back together again. Being in collaborative relationships in real life (where you live, work and play) awakens you to the effects of your actions both on people and on the place itself… The local place becomes the testing ground, revealing whether you have learned to love each other and the larger community around you. In essence, the parish is a dare to your faith.”
- Our faith challenges us to ask different questions. “If we begin to ask different questions, we get different answers regarding the state of the church. What if more and more of us were on the lookout for the Spirit’s movement, bearing witness to signs of new hunger for reconciled friendships, cooperative collaboration and the responsible stewardship of the place we live?”
- Our setting or place is essential. “When followers of Jesus share life together in a particular place they become much greater than the sum of their parts – they actually become something altogether new. The parish forms the context, and relationships of faith form the connectivity for wonderful new possibilities.” The authors encourage us to take our bodies, our location, our community very seriously. “Invite God to help you see where you live, to see the people who have already been placed next to you. You need these people and they need you. Your real relationships in your neighborhood are the crucible for mutual flourishing. It is in the everyday stuff of life that love moves from the realm of spiritual ideas and becomes a costly gift, giving back more than it takes…”
- Community trumps individualism. “The parish is beginning to subvert what may be the two most fragmenting forces of our day. The first can be called the ‘myth of the individual’ and the second ‘living above place.’”
- The need for a new angle of vision. “Learning to see the immeasurable and radical forces at play will require a new lens. It will require a new imagination that expands beyond our current concept of church and begins to track new patterns of renewal at work in the world. Ultimately learning to see will require reorientation, new postures and new ways of practicing faith.”
- Our addiction to techniques. “Without love there is no motivation to be faithfully present to the other. Without love there is no capacity to be fully available to the Spirit’s revelation. Without love there is no reason to drop your outcomes and enter into relationships with vulnerability. Love enables you to be present to the other.” Another great quote is, “When you trade faithful presence for techniques, people can become instrumental objects, which either aid in your mission or get in the way. Like a cookie cutter, people are pressed into your own hopes for the future. When this happens, presence – truly being with people in the moment, with no agenda except to be faithful to what a relationship requires – is forsaken.”
- Worship as a way of life that embodies everything we do. “The dare of the new parish is that formation, community and mission can only be conceived of as Christian when integrated together as holistic worship; one worship life, three embodied practices. The integration of these three aspects comprisesthe life of holistic worship or ‘faithful presence. I love this quote as well: ’” “The life of worship is more than what you do together at your Sunday gathering. It encompasses the whole of your collective lives together. The worship gathering rehearses who you are and the type of people you long to be together as you live out your faith in the parish throughout the week. The local church learns to relay on the Spirit’s movement in every situation as a way being faithfully present to the relationships in your context. The holistic life of worship is an everyday posture of faithful presence. At the center of church practice is faithful presence in the parish…”
- We need to be listen to God’s dream for the world. “The church is perhaps the only organization that is not inherently designed to be another special interest group at the table (housing, unions, business, traffic safety, developers, etc.). This is because the church is about all of life, not just ‘spirituality,’ and we should exist as connective tissue between every issue. It would be a grave mistake to think that we are present primarily to represent the interests of the church as an organization. We don’t need to add another issue to the table to fight for our religious or spiritual opinions so much as we need to be listeners, integrators, and relational bridge builders…” We need to listen to our own story, God’s story and the story of our place which are intertwined together to help us to embody an expression of adaptive presencing, and, “to approach transformation in neighborhoods by identifying and connecting the dreams and assets of the people, associations and institutions that are already there.” “Listening to your place through the narrative of God’s dream awakens you to what the Spirit is already up to and what good news really looks like in the place you live. There is not a program or a technique to apply. Rather, it’s having an intentional posture of deep listening and openness to the reality of your place. Begin by learning to listen to what it is, not what you assumed it to be or even what you want it to become…”
- It’s about God’s love for the world. “Discernment in the Christian tradition always takes as its starting point that God loves people, culture (s) and even the land. The goal of discernment is to spark the communal imagination toward Spirit-led action in the parish.” We must weave our routines into our unique settings. “Each of us finds ourselves in different life stages and scenarios. To adopt this new perspective is not about being a certain kind of person; it’s about being you, with your friends, in your neighborhood and integrating your day-to-day routines within your unique place. That being said, because the structure of Western life has become so fragmented, it may seem that your situation is impossible and that you don’t even know where to begin…” “Personal practices are simply the routines, patterns and everyday habits you carry out in the neighborhood that give you the opportunity to engage with what’s happening. In a very real sense, this is about your public presence in the parish. Most of your presence in the neighborhood is incredibly ordinary, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be intentional…”
- It’s about collaboration rather than competition. “Everyone acknowledges that collaboration is a good idea in theory, but knowing what should happen and actually doing it are two different animals. If you are honest, it’s a tragic reality that the majority of today’s structures generate more competition than collaboration. Organizing around faithful presence in the parish disrupts this structure in a powerful way. The parish is simultaneously the scalpel knife to the infection of overgrown competition and the healing bandage of collaboration.”
- It requires a new way of understanding leadership. The author suggests that it’s not fair to equate leadership with influence, stating,
“This is an important note. It’s simply not fair to equate leadership with influence. In fact, allowing leadership to be synonymous with influence in such a celebrity-driven and self-obsessed culture as ours is downright dangerous. With this in mind, we define leadership as the capacity to mobilize desire for reconciliation and renewal through collective action, while paying ongoing attention to God’s story, to the fidelity of the group within its place and to the leader’s own transformation. As this definition reflects, there is a now-and-not-yet dialectic in leadership. Leaders develop the capacity to draw others toward faithful presence together as they discern their way into a faithful future. True leaders can never compromise their own faithful presence in the hope of drawing others together, or in the hope of achieving their future end.” The authors highlight three metaphors for a new leadership in our time. The first metaphor is the designer who shapes environments and practices to bring people together. The second metaphor is the conductor who orchestrates the parts to function as a whole. The third metaphor is the player/coach who encourages team members without leaving the game.
I’ll be pondering three questions after reading this book:
- How can the church recover its sense of place?
- How might I listen more intently to God’s voice and God’s dreams for the world?
- How can I exercise leadership that reflects faithful presence?
What might be stirring in you?