Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Sharing faith journeys in our communities of faith

Do sentences like the above make you cringe? Do you run screaming from the worship space when you hear talk about "ministries?" Do you miss the days when religious education was catechesis? Then you aren't alone. Or at least, that means I am not alone.

I hate and despise the attempts to update venerable and ancient terms with the modern and banal. But why is it that such terms are so bad? They have the aroma of middle-management jargon, unnecessary complications of language used to justify the jobs of mediocrities. But, as bad as jargon is, I think the reason such terms are bad is deeper. In fact, I think the use of such terms is a sign of a serious spiritual sickness.

Walker Percy talks about the changes of fashion in Lost in the Cosmos, pointing out that when clothes go out of style, it isn't the clothes that have changed, but the person who wears them. At one point, the polkadot tie "was you." Now, it is no longer. In fact, the continual movement from polkadot tie to paisley tie to monochrome, Regis-Philbinesque tie and back is evidence that you don't really know who you are. If you had a proper sense of self (and for Percy, the only proper sense of self is "sinner, along with other sinners, but redeemed"), you wouldn't need to change your tie.

A similar thing is happening in the Church. We don't have a clear idea of what the Church is, and so we attempt to clothe the big gaping hole in our understanding with lots of nice, warm, friendly, "relevant" terminology. If we call the parish a "worship community", that might distract us from the fact that we don't really understand what it means to be part of the Church, the Bride of Christ, espoused to Christ and made holy by his sacrifice.

Eschew obfuscation. Go back to calling churches and parishes "churches" and "parishes," not "worship spaces" and "faith communities." Don't "share your faith journey," evangelize!

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