Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The thing is...

One of my classes this semester is called "Psychology of Religious Development." We've looked at the major developmental theories and theorists, and are just now getting to the Big Names in faith development, Fowler and Parks. Time and time again, we come to the conclusion that in order for adults to grow in faith, they need faith experiences (as opposed to dogmatic instruction) and relationship (as opposed to reading, for instance, or... dogmatic instruction).
Then of course, the question becomes: how does a church do this? How does an institutional church manage to help all its adult members have conversion experiences, have religious experiences, form deeper relationships with God? We agree that it's a hard thing to do, agree that most parishes seem to be fine with their adults lingering forever in a low-to-middlin' level of faith, and that it's easiest for parishes to provide quantitative programs like dogmatic instruction, and hard to guage progress in such a qualitative goal such as these.
So today, a class member said "well right now, parishes in Boston are participating in this wonderful program, RENEW."
I rolled my eyes.
This year everyone who's participating in the Renew/Arise program has been raving about it, and... I believe them. I'm sure it's a great program, a great opportunity for people to share faith, meet new people, grow in faith. But I also believe that all the other panaceas (Alpha, Small Faith Communities, Life-Nights, Disciples in Mission, etc.) have just as much value. None is significantly different from the others (and all of them are basically copies of good ol'fashioned YOUTH GROUP models tweaked for adults) and all of them come to an end.
The thing is, all of these are great programs. But they're temporary, and don't address the Big Issue. These programs are great for the joiners in the parish, but don't address the seekers who won't go to a program. They teach people to share faith, but once they're over, they're over. Parishes who will gladly rave about their successful Renew programs won't, in any other way, address the idea that adults faith formation should be their focus, won't stop pouring their resources into elementary-level CCD programs. The paradigm needs to be addressed in order to make efforts like Renew (and all the others) have sticking power. In my opinion.
It's like the alcoholic who takes up yoga. Sure, she feels stretchier and lither, but the systemic issue is still there, keeping her back from true health.
I almost wrote "but hey, it's better than nothing!" but it's not. These band-aid programs keep the church busy and keep them from addressing the systemic issue, because they look like they're doing something.
Beware the brand-name program... work to change the paradigm.

from all the birds at our house to yours

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Monday, November 23, 2009

What if I'm a jerk?

Sometimes, usually after a big event or social thing, I start to wonder... what if I was a jerk? I look back over my conversations and interactions with people and worry: was my response snippy? Did what I say make someone feel bad? What if I missed a grimace in response to something I said? Oh shoot. Should I call them and ask if I was a jerk when we were together? If I wasn't, they'll say "why would you think that?" and I will have to give them an example of when I thought I might have been acting jerky. Then, maybe, they'll realize what a jerk I was, even though they hadn't noticed it before. Maybe it's best not to bring anything up.
After my wedding, I worried that maybe I'd missed someone, or turned away from someone before they were done speaking to me, or didn't pay enough attention to someone. I worry that my bridesmaids might have been miserable, or my parents might have felt neglected. I dunno.
Well, I hope I'm not a jerk. If anyone out there has noticed me being jerky, break it to me gently, will ya?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Amen Sister!

I'm just home from a trip to the homeland, an annual trip with my sisters for earl Christmas shopping and crafting. We eat great food, follow each other on errands, we gossip and laugh a lot. We tell lots of stories. We check our impressions of how things are with each other, and reckon our memories against each other's.
Last week at HoFo, someone with only one sibling asked me what it was like to grow up in a large family. She said "did you never get lonely, did you always have someone to talk to?" I remember that there was always at least someone at home, and if there wasn't always someone to talk to, there were always tales to listen to. I told my HoFo group how much I loved to get hand-me-downs from my sister, because they had cool clothes that I would never be able to buy for myself. Getting a pile (or garbage bag) of clothes from them meant I was getting older, coming closer to who they were, closer to a time when I could wear colors and styles beyond what seemed like constant brown nylon.
Now that we're all older, I can see more and more how alike we are, the way our DNA is distributed among us, and how being children of our parents has formed us into the people we are today. We're different from each other, too- but you can't miss that we're related. Together with honorary sister, we have a lot of fun and share a lot of memories. I look forward to this trip every year.
Now I'm home again (jiggety-jig) and waiting for Scott to gt home from his junior-senior retreat and tomorrow morning we launch into another crazy week. Suddenly now it's almost Thanksgiving and almost time for snow and almost time for Advent and Christmas. The leaves are all off the trees lining the highway and now I can see all the orange bittersweet that has been hidden underneath. I love Bittersweet, and love the idea of it growing in amongst the green leaves all Summer, and then showing itself in big orange clouds in the trees and brush when this time of year rolls around. It's a bittersweet time of year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

buncha half entries

Maybe it's just a busy time (it is) but I find myself writing half-blog-entries in my head constantly but nothing complete. So I figure I'll regale you with half-entries.
For about two weeks now I've had this spot on my left foot that would suddenly feel like it was heating up. A strange hot spot, just erupting there every several minutes, and then subsiding. Sometimes it felt so hot that I wanted to take off my shoes. But it didn't feel hot to the touch.
As I am always hoping for signs of menopause I kinda hoped I was having a weird hot flash, but then I heard an interview with a woman from Canada who suffered from MS. She said her first symptom was "hot knees." So I've been pretty sure over the last week or so that I have a brand new case of MS, and thought even more seriously than usual about considering taking some kind of exercise. You know, while I could.
Good news! The heat is gone. Now I don't have to work out!
I think the most profound thing my mother ever told me was "don't wish away time." It's profound to me, because I think my Mom does that very thing... and also I do it. I'm always looking ahead to some future date, some future thing (like menopause!). All through my first few years of ministry I couldn't wait to have enough years of experience under my belt that I'd feel credible- and always looked forward to looking closer to my age, for crying out loud... I always have looked young, at least since I've been old enough to look one way or another. It's the same thing, a wish to look credible- there's something about a young adult youth minister that seems to scream "I don't know what I'm doing, really!" I also really hate being new at things, in places. So I'm always anxious to get some time behind me, so that I'll know I've made it.
When I was a kid, it would take me forever to walk home from school. I'd stop here and there, visit the neighborhood dogs, linger on the path. But if there was bad news (a bad grade, something I was in trouble with, I would race home, even despite my best efforts to stall. I just wanted to get things over with. I guess I still operate that way.
Well, there's two half-things anyway. Does that count for one full blog post? I'll try to do better, people.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Oh, hey! Are you still here?

Ah, public, sorry about the lack of posts lately! It's nothing personal, I've just been busy writing (and reading) for school. But here I am!!! Thanks for waiting!
School lately has had my head spinning. In a good way! Even in HoFo today I heard myself say something pretty profound. But also, every Tuesday night at the parish, I've been leading a really enjoyable (at least to me!) Lectio Divina group based on the upcoming Sunday Gospel reading. We call it Sunday Lex, which is why people seem confused about when to show up...
Anyway, tonight we looked ahead to this Sunday's Gospel reading from Mark, the story of the scribes' hypocrisy vs. the widow who gave her all (two small coins). We talked about whether or not Jesus' lesson in these stories is about complete surrender. We all confessed to being non all-givers, non complete-surrender-ers. We talked about how we decide how to give money to a cause, for instance (from our surplus, like the scribes? To God, like the widow?).
I told the group about a man who stood up at a parish adult faith formation class and told everyone that he got a letter in the mail from some organization, telling him that giving money to them was like giving money to God- that any money he sends them, God would repay many times. He told us proudly that he did send a lot of money to them, and continues to do so, and it always does come back, somehow.
I remember standing at the front of that room, looking at him, and thinking "oh that poor man is being robbed!" But in a way, I didn't want to challenge him because he was giving out of great faith.
The question I ended up facing then was, Am I smarter than he is, or is his faith stronger than mine?
I think I've written her about when I was a kid and we went to Mass at St. John's, a tall, Gothic-looking church, and thought I might be able to fly. It was probably during the homily... I remember thinking. "God can do anything. He said faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. If I have enough faith right now, and I stand up, right now, in front of all these people in this non-standing moment of the Mass, I bet I could fly."
But, I didn't stand up. I remember feeling ashamed that I didn't have enough faith to try it out. Since then I've wondered, was I really talking about trusting God, or testing Him? Was I logical and smart not to stand up, or was I weak weak weak in faith?
I don't have a good summary statement with which to end this entry. I think I'll be chewing on it all week. Learning to surrender to God is a process that I am constantly, constantly wrestling with. God is teaching me how to do that, and why I should do that, one struggle at a time. But I'm still not giving away all I have, and I'm still not standing up to see if I could fly during Mass... I'm not sure I ever will be able to do that, and I'm not sure if that's what God is asking of me.