Monday, June 25, 2012

The Loneliest Church in the World


When I walk around town or through campus, I notice how little people interact with others face-to-face in our modern culture. Think of all the multitasking we do in our lives these days, yet how little we spend in real human communication. It is more common for someone to be looking at a phone, than it is for them to look you in the eye and greet you. 

Facebook, Twitter, texting, email, etc. are full of information and have some communication built into them, but they are all impersonal methods of communication. There is no real person-to-person interaction and the results are that our culture is becoming less friendly, less personal, less intimate.



In the midst of this impersonal culture our faith calls us to become a community of people gathered together in God's name. We are called to care for one another. Love one another. Serve one another. We fail at this miserably, because we don't even KNOW one another.


God gives us the gift of a specific parish. A church family. Yet, we treat each other as strangers. We don't reach out to each other. God wants us to attack the loneliness in the parishes we are in. The heart of so many people is yearning for true communion with others in our parishes. Yet, we widely ignore most of those sitting around us. I imagine Jesus would weep at how unwelcoming and impersonal most parishes are today.

Church can be very lonely for a lot of people. Many come to church, participate, and then leave without any real human interaction, except for the sign of peace. It is very common to have to crawl over people into a pew, because so many sit at the edges of the pew, and give off the message that others aren't welcome to sit next to them. Even our body language says a lot. 



Our churches can seem to be like the wilderness Jesus entered into.
Our churches are sometimes the loneliest places in the world, because they are meant to be open, welcoming, warm, and friendly.

But, most are not...

What can we do about it?
What does God want out of our parishes?

2 comments:

Katy Anders said...

There seems to be a real lack of community throughout American life today, best i can tell.

I mean, we're all part of plenty of online communities, but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of face-to-face interaction. Looking someone in the eyes and welcoming them, assessing them, etc.

Everybody's got their head down, typing away at a phone.

Maybe church should be the exception. A place to look each other in the eyes, press the flesh, be part of a shared humanity.

I don't know, but worth thinking about!

Eric said...

Great question! It stunned me that I could not answer it readily off the top of my head, and I'm in seminary preparing to be a parish priest! So, naturally when I'm stumped, I went to Google. This led me to an address by the Holy Father from a few years ago:

OPENING OF THE PASTORAL CONVENTION
OF THE DIOCESE OF ROME ON THE THEME:
"CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AND PASTORAL CO-RESPONSIBILITY"

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Tuesday, 26 May 2009

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2009/may/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20090526_convegno-diocesi-rm_en.html

Particularly the last 5 paragraphs seem to provide a nice summary of what parishes should be about.