Posted in church

Supporting the Birth of a New Church

A Church that isn’t a Church

The only Church we will ever need

The Church within.

New church, church within, building a new church, birthing a new church

As it relates to church, my (now ex) husband shared this bit of wisdom, “The only perfect church is the church of one.” This could not be more true as every single institution ever created by man will only be as good as its weakest member.  As long as there are wounded, imperfect humans, we will have wounded and imperfect institutions.  I believe it is for this reason that Jesus NEVER set out to start a church.  He didn’t even come here to start a new religion.  Jesus was a Jew who only sought to remind the tribe in which he was raised of its own Divine potential.  But more importantly, Jesus came to support us in moving beyond the external perceived authority of institutional religion and toward the only true authority that we will ever truly need – that which Jesus called “God,” and which Jesus tried to explain, is not outside of us, but is within.

As the revelations of the corruption and evil within the Catholic Church continue to emerge, one has to wonder about the fate of the Church. In my past life, I used to believe the Church could be healed and reformed and that I was to be part of that reform.  Now I know better.  After giving up on the Church, I thought it was my job to start a new church.  Again, now I know better.  Why in the world would I want to start an institution and have to be responsible to and for others?  No Way!  As I have been sitting in this space of holding the Catholic Church in its death and pondering my role in all of this (there is no doubt in my mind that I am here to play some sort of role that has something to do with what we used to call “church”), the prophecies of Joachim DeFiore have haunted me:

Joachim DeFiore (1132-1202), a theologian and prophet of the Catholic Church spoke of the time we are in when he referred to “The Age of the Holy Spirit.” He prophesied that a time would come when humanity would no longer have need for the Church.  He said that humanity would no longer need the intercessor of the Church or its priests as we would come to know God ourselves.  I believe we are in this time.  We are moving away from the need for an outside perceived authority and learning to stand in our own discernment where we can discover and live in our own truth.  We no longer need a priest or a Church to tell us what is good, right and true for ourselves.  We also no longer need a Church to tell us who God is.  We have all the tools we need to come to know the Divine on our own.  If we do not have the tools, we have resources we can go to find and learn how to use these tools.  This, I believe, is the “Church” that I am being called to help bring forth.

A Church that isn’t a Church

The only Church we will ever need.

The Church within.

Here we come to know the God of our own understanding. We come to know this God through whatever means possible – through scripture, ritual, nature, life itself, creative expression, contemplation, meditation, prayer, poetry, fairytales, etc. etc. etc.  Here there is no limit to how we might have an encounter with the Source.  In knowing this Source, we also come to know ourselves.  In coming to know ourselves, we discover our unique giftedness and how we are called to use these gifts in the world for the sake of our own fulfillment and in service to the betterment of the world.  In coming to know ourselves, we also come to know our brokenness and we are given tools to help find healing and transformation from all those things which prevent us from being free. Here, WE are our own source of salvation – We in our relationship with the Source of unconditional love and in our relationship with others and with the world.

This is the church that I believe will find its way out of the debris of the dying Catholic Church and through Authentic Freedom Academy and the Temple of the Magdalene, I support the emergence of this new (original) “church.”

 

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Authentic Freedom Academy, Authentic Freedom Book, Christ Consciousness, church, Jesus, Mystics, New World, Oneness with God, Raised Catholic

Nothing Like Richard Rohr

Today’s blog: Richard Rohr, emerging church, beyond religion, unity consciousness, healing a divided world, what does it mean to be “church” in a post-modern world?

Before sharing today’s blog, I want to extend a profound thank you to all those who offered words of encouragement and support, along with your prayers.  When I accepted the call to step even more fully into my truth by initiating the “Gathering of the Tribe,” the “devil” came a callin’!  Every one of my fears and insecurities has shown up to test my resolve.  Any and all safety nets were removed and I’ve been free-falling, trusting (trying to trust anyway) that I am being carried to the fulfillment of this mission. I am committed to the mission of the Tribe and to the work of Authentic Freedom and will continue to do the deep inner work that allows me to show up to this mission each and every day.  Thank you for your love and support.  We cannot do this alone! 

Now for today’s blog:

No, I’m Nothing Like Richard Rohr!

If I had a dime for every person who has said to me, “your writing reminds me very much of Richard Rohr’s,” I would be the richest person in the world. As I have come to know Richard Rohr’s work, I can see how people might judge us as similar: we are both Type Ones on the Enneagram, we are both speaking on the topic of unity consciousness, we are both working to unite a divided world, we are both arriving at our topics from the perspective of a mystic.  But there is one very important thing that sets us apart from which I must insist, “No, I am nothing like Richard Rohr.”

No offense to Richard as he is speaking to a very specific audience in the great work he is doing in the world.  And he is working from within the comfort of his white, male, ordained, clerical privilege; deeply embedded in an institutional Christian mindset and supported by that institution. I am not.

Case in point: Yesterday, in Richard’s daily meditation email newsletter, he reflected on Making Christianity Relevant Again. While I agree with many of his points, if we ever hope to heal the divisions of our society and our world, we have to first recognize that the separation put forth by the Christian message is an enormous part of the problem….and it has been since the Jesus message was sold out to the fear, power, privilege and control of the Roman empire.

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When the message of love that Jesus came to teach became institutionalized in the form of Christianity, the love was lost and fear took its place. (Just a reminder, Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian and he never sought to start a new religion, but to bring forth the love that was already at the heart of the Jewish message.) Suddenly, we were unworthy of the love of God, we needed an intermediary (in the form of an ordained priest) between ourselves and God, and in order to earn God’s love, we have to pay, pray and obey.  The freedom that Jesus promised was replaced by indentured servitude.  We were no longer free. Instead, we became slaves to the institution and to the institutional laws (dogma, doctrine), that serve mostly to keep us from God’s love, or to remind us of how this love had to be earned and the eternal threat of that love being taken away.

It is not Christianity that needs to be made relevant – it is love. In fact, this is already happening and the unfolding of this is not coming from within the institution of Christianity, it is coming from without.  THIS is the emerging church that Protestants say they are looking toward and which Catholicism seeks to ignore.  It is happening in people’s homes, in popular media, in the publishing industry, in online communities – all those places where people are coming together to rediscover the love that is at the heart of every religion – the love that erases the perceived separation between belief systems, making their chosen teacher’s words relevant to an entire world, not just to the “chosen few” who will find salvation through obedience to the institution’s laws.  This is the work I am doing through Authentic Freedom Academy and another reason I am nothing like Richard Rohr.  I am no longer seeking to reform an institution (Christianity) that is part of the problem in the first place.  I’m going directly to the source which is love.

The place where I came to know this love is within, and it was from and through Jesus’ teachings (which are clearly written in scripture when we move beyond the doctrine) that I came to know this love within. This is the love that Jesus came to know within himself through his oneness with (that which he called) God, and which he then sought to teach others.  This is a love that is universal and available to every single human being that walks on this planet – and you don’t have to call Jesus your teacher to know this love.  In fact, if we look closely enough, we learn that this love is at the heart of most every institution that calls itself a religion or a philosophy.  Love is what we are all seeking to attain/remember and it is love that will heal the divisions of our broken world.

From the chair in which Fr. Richard Rohr is sitting as a white, ordained, Catholic priest, I understand his point – for him and for those to whom he ministers, perhaps it is Christianity that needs to be made relevant. But from where I am sitting, the only thing we need is love.

If you are in the Oshkosh area, please join us for tonight’s Gathering of the Tribe.  6:30 pm at Authentic Freedom Academy. 1103 School Ave.  Oshkosh. 

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Authentic Freedom Academy, church

Authentic Freedom – BEING the New Model of What We Used to Call “Church”

While the Catholic Church reaffirms its ban on women’s ordination and Protestant Churches are musing on (or in denial over) the question of emerging church, Authentic Freedom Academy is about the business of BEING the new church. I hesitate to even use the word church, because in truth, Authentic Freedom Academy is about everything Church is not, or rather, everything Church would have the opportunity to be if it were to lay down its burden of fear and its resulting need to exercise power and control.

Authentic Freedom starts where Jesus left off with LOVE. Examining every reported teaching of Jesus, every reported example, and receiving these through the lens of love, Authentic Freedom is able to pierce through the veil created by fear and the orthodoxy that arose out of this fear, to uncover the depth of love and the call to Oneness put forth by Jesus.  From this place of love, the love that lays hidden within every single spiritual tradition can be discovered, honored and embraced.  There is not only one way to “God.”  Everything leads us back to our original nature as love when we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

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In this, Authentic Freedom has mined all the possible ways of connecting with, remembering and embodying this love – whether it be through Christian or Hebrew scripture, meditation, movement, knowledge of our energy anatomy, the teachings of the Buddha, the mystical poetry of Hafiz, Rumi and Rabiah, mantra, chant, Kirtan, ritual, gathering in community, shamanic journeys, interpretation of dreams, the wisdom of fairytales, or a glimpse into the terrific tools of Western and Eastern psychology including the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs.  All provide nourishment, insight and support in our journey toward love. We have found that this kind of multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural approach is critical in an increasingly pluralistic, secular and intelligent world.

THIS is what Church had the opportunity to do if it had not embraced fear instead of the love that Jesus promised for those who followed his example. This is what Authentic Freedom has become over the course of its twenty-two year evolution – a new model of what we formerly called “church.”  Authentic Freedom does this through our:

If you are looking for a different experience of what you formerly experienced as Church, I encourage you to check out our offerings and find out what might speak to you. Peruse our website.  Check out our offerings.  And if you have additional questions, do not hesitate to email lauri@authenticfreedom.love.

P.S. If the old way of being Church appeals to you and you find comfort and support there, then yay!  All paths lead us to God/Love. If not, Authentic Freedom provides a place where you can explore another option.

 

 

 

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Authentic Freedom Academy, Christ Consciousness, church, divine mother, Jesus, New World, Oneness with God, Raised Catholic, the bible

Revealing the “New” in What Has Formerly Been Called “Church”

It is no longer about building the new world. It is about BEING the new world.

– Lauri Ann Lumby

For those of us who came here to be leaders in bringing forth the new world – in helping others to see the new world that is already here in our midst, we each have our own unique task , our own unique portion of “the new” we are here to help others see hidden within “the old.”

Some are called to be leaders of revealing the new world in the fields of education, others in medicine, others in banking and finance, others in governance, others in what was formerly called “the military,” and others in marketing, commerce, industry, manufacturing, agriculture, etc.

The specific field in which I am called to reveal the “new” is in what has formerly been called “church.”

stmarysinterior

In the old world, “church” became the intermediary between the people and their “god” and the outside perceived authority charged with telling the people what to do. “Church” ruled through fear and manipulated with threats of eternal punishment and damnation.

This was never what God intended. Neither was this what Jesus worked for.  Even Paul would have cringed if he’d seen what would become of his “Body of Christ.”

While this model of church continues to serve the needs of those who choose to remain in the old world – the world ruled by fear; for those choosing to live in a world of and for the purpose of Love, a different experience of what has formerly been called “church” seeks to be made known.

For those who in the old world were raised in one of the many Christian traditions, or who resonate with the person of Jesus, the “new” that is being revealed, and that I am called to help others see, starts with him.

jesus

What did Jesus do?

While we cannot recognize as authoritative or historically accurate, when we look past 2000 years of orthodox interpretation and through centuries of redaction and political maneuvering, and allow the Divine to speak to us directly, many truths can be gleaned:

  • Jesus prayed. And he prayed often, and he taught his disciples how to pray.
  • It was through prayer that Jesus experienced a deeply intimate, loving and even parental relationship with God (which he called “Abwoon”).
  • It was also through prayer that Jesus eventually came to realize his Oneness with God.
  • Through prayer, Jesus came to know God as Love and in this Oneness, came to know himself as Love.
  • It was in this Love that Jesus came to experience “heaven on earth” or as Jesus explained it: “the kingdom of God within.”
  • THIS is the kingdom Jesus proclaimed – LOVE.
  • Jesus lived and taught two commandments: Love God. Love Neighbor. And Jesus considered EVERYONE to be his neighbor, especially those the outside perceived authority called “sinners” or “unclean.”

In the words of Isaiah, Jesus:

Brought glad tidings to the lowly,

Proclaimed liberty to captives,

Gave sight to the blind,

Freed the imprisoned and oppressed,

Healed the brokenhearted,

Comforted those who mourned

And proclaimed a year acceptable to the Lord.

IS 61: 1-2

Jesus invited “those who had ears to hear” to move beyond the fears created by the outside perceived authority that served to separate them from “God” to the love that had been there all along – the love through which they were empowered to remember their Oneness with God (each other and all of creation) and that in this Oneness, they would know peace.

  • THIS is how Jesus healed the sick and set captives free.
  • THIS is what Jesus taught and then empowered his disciples to do.
  • THIS is what we too are called to do.
  • THIS is what I am called to reveal as the “new” model of what we formerly called “church”

As Jesus himself taught that we are all ONE and that there is indeed no separation; in the new world this proves to be true:

Here we are no longer

Jew or Greek

Slave or Free

Male or Female

For we are all ONE.

Gal 3: 28

Here, the truth within all traditions is sought and love becomes the measure of that truth.

As I am called to reveal “the new” in what has formerly been called “church,” the Catholic faith in which I was raised in my starting point.

maryqueenrosary

The Church:

  • That taught me about Jesus.
  • Who called me to do what Jesus did.
  • That taught me the value of ritual and the transformative power of contemplative prayer.
  • Where I learned that scripture is indeed the Word of God when we allow God to speak to us through and beyond the imperfection of human words.
  • Who gave me the angels, saints, mystics and all souls as my companions and guides.
  • Who gave me a God who is both Mother and Father and a God who as Spirit is beyond gender, name or form and who is both outside and within.
  • And the “Church” that taught me that we are here to know ourselves as the Temple of God and that as the Temple of God we have each been uniquely gifted and that it is through these gifts that we find fulfillment in our lives as we serve ourselves and others through the use of these gifts.

This is the starting point, but certainly not the end. For if we are all truly One, then it is our job to seek this Oneness – especially where we have most often fought for the sake of our perceived separation – in that which has formerly been called faith, religion or belief.

This is the “new” that I am called to reveal as we move more and more into the new world of Love – a “new” way of being what we formerly called “church.” And in this, we will learn that the “new” isn’t new after all, for it has always been here, right in our very midst, when we have had the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

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If this this is the kind of “new” experience of what has formerly been called “church” that calls to you, please join us for our weekly gathering: “Being the New World”

Mondays 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Tuesdays 9:00 – 11:00 am

Authentic Freedom Academy

1103 School Ave.

Oshkosh, WI

Suggested Donation $10 – $20

If you are not in the Fox Valley and are interested in participating in these gatherings, please begin by subscribing to our weekly Empowerment Newsletter.

If you are interested in recorded sessions of our weekly gathering and in becoming part of our online community, please email Lauri at lauri@authenticfreedom.love.  If there is enough of an interest, these will be made available for a small monthly subscription fee. 

 

Posted in church

Where Will the Future Church Meet? Not in Church – Guest Blog

Today’s blog comes to us from reader, John Backman (bio below).  John and I have had several conversations about Emerging Church and we seem to be of the same mind on this topic.  I appreciate the way John continues to remind me of the things of value in the traditional church and things not to be left behind as we allow space for the Church that is trying to be born!  John, thank you for keeping me grounded and humble!   

Where Will the Future Church Meet? Not in Church

My wife and I raise guinea pigs. That makes us part of an obscure hobby with maybe 1,000 other folks across the U.S. We meet at shows, often in barns, wearing jeans and sweats sprinkled with animal hair.

A hobby this small has its own dynamic, and it’s much like a family. We attract colorful eccentrics and needy people. We gossip, fight, and disagree about silly things. We may be “related,” but we are very different. We also rally around one another in times of crisis.

And in most cases, we have found a place where we can be fully ourselves. That makes our hobby a sort of living laboratory for how to see and embrace people as they are, warts and all.

In other words, without even thinking about it, we are living into Jesus’ vision of community.

According to some churches I have attended, it’s not supposed to be this way. The local church, they say, is supposed to be our family. We guinea pig folk may be practicing Christian community in a way, but not within a Christian community. Right idea, wrong place.

But maybe it’s not the wrong place. Maybe it’s a glimpse of where the Spirit wants to lead the church of the future.

For centuries, church was the center of the local community. Even into modern times, it was expected that Catholics attend Mass in their neighborhood parish. Some evangelicals quote the Letter to the Hebrews (“not neglecting to meet together,” Hebrews 10:25) to tout the church’s role in the center of the believer’s life. Yes, churches were called to outreach, but the weight of the spiritual life was in the sanctuary, and the community that worshiped there.

Times have changed. So many people have abandoned church that this model is fast becoming irrelevant to the wider world. Moreover, few churches meet the standard of community that I find in my motley group of guinea pig people. How can the Church continue to speak from a model that no longer works?

Maybe it shifts the model. Maybe the Church gives up its role as the center of the Christian life—and becomes a facilitator of the Christian life.

It might look like this: for Christians, the world becomes our living laboratory, the place where we spend most of our time, the place where we strive to live the ideals of Jesus. The Church, meanwhile, continues to share its treasure trove of ideas, practices, and values to facilitate our progress.

Actually, this sounds a lot like the Jesus of the gospels. He spent nearly all his time in the public square: on the streets, with tax collectors and other disreputables, in people’s homes, and in the courts of the Temple, healing and teaching. When he needed sustenance, he retreated to the hills for prayer, and then back he went into the crowds. Yes, he interacted with his fellow rabbis, but mostly to challenge them, not to fellowship with them.

This would be a massive shift. The Church would no longer be a nexus of power, but rather a facilitator of service. It would stand on the sidelines, the way a head coach does. The game happens on the field; the coach simply gives the players the necessary resources and guidance to play well. It is an important role, but not the central role.

With the Church’s facilitation, people could immerse themselves in the world more fully oriented (and better equipped) to love all, accept the outcast, be vulnerable, and commit to others in a way that does not end with the first falling out. People living like this could do a world of good. The treasures of the Church would be used in service to humanity. Christendom would inform individuals and cultures rather than trying to control them.

What would happen if the Church followed this call? No one can say for sure. But it would be a worthy venture indeed.

 

About the Author

Backman at PA show 2.2014John Backman, the author of Why Can’t We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart(SkyLight Paths Publishing), writes extensively on contemplative spirituality and its ability to help us dialogue across divides. As a regular contributor to Huffington Post Religion and an associate of an Episcopal monastery, he has written articles for numerous faith-based publications, both progressive and conservative.John currently serves on the board of directors for the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, and he has presented on dialogue-related topics at academic conferences and faith gatherings.

 

 

Posted in church, Jesus, Raised Catholic, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

Emergent Church – What I’ve Seen and What I See Coming

Today’s blog continues the conversation about Emergent Church – inspired by Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence. Today, I’m moving beyond Tickle’s observations to add some of my own.  Having had my ministry formation in the Catholic Church, being employed in the Catholic Church for ten years and now having worked in secular ministry for another ten, I have seen some interesting things about what is happening and what seems to be coming in the emergence of a new way of being church that is trying to break forth into the world.

Wisdom (or Sophia, Mother Wisdom)_

Where is the authority?

As Phyllis Tickle frequently reminds in her book, every past major transition in Western Christianity has been defined by the question and settled in the answer, “where is the authority?” This transition is no different.  I have had a deep sense of this for a very long time and my suspicions were confirmed and words were given to what I felt emerging in the writings of Joachim de Fiore.  A twelfth-century theologian, Joachim predicted a time in the history of the Church when people would no longer look toward the Institution as an intermediary between themselves and God, but would instead, seek to know God directly and would bypass the Institution and go directly to God for guidance, direction, comfort, learning and support.  He called this time, “The Age of the Holy Spirit.”  I believe that this is EXACTLY what is happening today and will ultimately become the ground upon which the new way of being Church will take root and grow and the answer to the question of authority.  Authority – in the church that is trying to be born, will be GOD.  What is interesting about this is that this is the EXACT answer that distinguished the first generations of Christians from just another sect within Judaism and by default, created a new way of being church:

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! (Acts 5: 29)

The causes of this trajectory toward authority resting in God instead of Church are as follows:

Searching Stage of Spiritual Development

Collectively, we are in the midst of the searching stage of spiritual development (See Fowler).  We are asking questions.  We are seeking knowledge.  We want to understand the whys and the hows and if things don’t add up, we challenge it.  This is a critical and important stage of spiritual development and needs to be supported and encouraged if the Church ever hopes to have educated and empowered members.  The problem is that the Institutions, by and large, resist this stage of spiritual development, and some even condemn it.  “Sit down.  Shut up.  Don’t ask questions.  Do what you are told.”  But more and more Christians are growing up and want more, which leads me to my next point.

Longing for God

I believe this trajectory of authority is arising first, out of our longing for God.  Church, as we have known it, has done a great job of telling us about God from the perspective of (mostly) white men who have been placed in positions of authority.  While some of what has been said about God is helpful, the generation in which we now live longs for more.  This longing, I believe, has been planted within us by God and through this longing, we want to KNOW God – directly, personally, and intimately.  In the Church that is trying to be born, direct experience will not only be supported, it will be encouraged and will eventually become the norm.

Uppity Lay People

The trajectory of authority toward God over Church is arising, secondly, out of an educated laity.  The time of the clergy being the most educated in town is over.  In Western society, the level of education of the laity (the peeps in the pew) is rising and often far surpassing that of their pastor.  Additionally, lay people are seeking ministry and theological education and formation resulting in some laity that is at least as educated on matters of theology, Church practice and spirituality, as their pastors, if not more so.  Furthermore, we are living in an age of reason and in the information era.  Rational knowledge is king and it is readily available literally at our fingertips.  And educated, knowledge-driven laity will no longer be satisfied with “because that’s the way it has always been done,” or “because that is what is written in Canon Law.”  And first and foremost, for an educated laity, things need to make sense.  If a member of the community has a gluten intolerance, isn’t it better to bend the rules about how communion bread is supposed to be made according to Canon Law, than deny them the Eucharist?  And if abstaining from meat on Fridays is supposed to instill humility and keep us mindful of the people in the world who are hungry, then how is a $20.00 a pound perch better than hamburger at $4.00 a pound?

If authority rests is God, then is what need have we of Church?

This is the question I have been asking myself just about every day. And I have to give reader, John Backman credit for the answer that most resonates with me:

“The Church can serve well as an informer and guide to that conscience to which we are giving primacy.”

John, I think you hit the nail on the head.  If authority rests in God, then the Church has the important and very valuable and necessary task of providing us with the Spiritual Formation (which differs from religious formation) that gives us the tools through which we can hear and listen for God and then discern the voice of God from that of our ego.  Visually, I see the Church has a mother eagle, carrying us to the realization of our greatest potential.  Additionally, I see the Church as shepherd, providing the space and the structure through which we can come together as community to DO the work Jesus sent us to do – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, set captives free.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.

 

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Posted in church, grief, Surrender

Emergent Church – The Call for Compassion and Surrender

Today’s blog continues the discussion about Emergent Church – inspired by Phyllis Tickle’s book The Great Emergence. In Tuesday’s blog, I spoke specifically about the role and challenge of the innovators/prophets who have been gifted with the vision and feeling of the new way of being Church that is trying to be born into our world, and who have been commissioned to carry and bring forth this vision.  Today, I want to offer a show of compassion for the traditionalists, or as Phyllis Tickle calls them, the “re-traditioners” who are frightened of and therefore resist to this change.

StMarysinterior

Greater even than the fear of dying is the fear of change

The re-traditioners, as Phyllis Tickle calls them, are those who are happy, content and comfortable with the model of Church as it currently exists.  The re-traditioners are made up of people in the pew (because they are still going to church) and those in leadership – specifically deacons, brothers, priests, pastors, ministers, bishops, popes, and even some of the women religious. Often, re-traditioners are those who have benefitted from the current model of being Church and who might actually have something to lose should things change.  Some have simply never been called to question the current model of Church and would rather not rock the boat.  “Why fix what isn’t broke?” they might ask.  The problem is that the current model of Church is broke, and many, fearing what a change in the Church might mean for them, choose denial as a way of managing the grief that threatens to overwhelm them over the thought of change.  For you see, even greater than death, human beings fear change.

Holding out for more celibate priests

Here is a case in point.  I remember years ago, when I was asked to be our parish representative in local discussions on how to deal with the Catholic priest vocation crisis.  As a group, we were charged with the task of figuring out how to manage six Catholic parishes with only two priests, and eventually how to manage them with only one priest – as these were the priestly vocation projections for the next ten years.  As an innovator, the solution was obvious to me – close four parishes and eventually all but one and hire lay ministers to staff non-sacramental duties.  While participating in these meetings, I was flabbergasted by the power of denial as I listened to the response to our task by several of the parish representatives present, “We’re sure priestly vocations will turn around, and we won’t need to worry about closure.”  Instead of entering into a discussion about practical solutions based on the cold, hard facts of declining priestly vocations AND declining church attendance, they chose to bury their head in the sand.  My compassion understands that what was really at work here was not ignorance, but grief – these re-traditioners were afraid of the impending change that would dramatically alter the experience of Church through which they had found comfort, predictability and safety.  The world, as they had come to know it, was about to change – dramatically.

Confronting our fear of change

We are facing a similar experience today as we stand in the tension between the Church as it has been known and the new way of being Church that is trying to be born in our world.  The innovators can’t wait for the new Church to be born and the re-traditions are hanging on with all their might to what they have known.  What often happens in the face of this kind of tension is one side projecting their fear onto the other thereby creating enemies where enemies do not really exist. I know this has been done to me, and that I, in turn, have done this toward “the other.”  It doesn’t have to happen this way, however. In the face of this transition, we can turn it into a tug of war – each side battling for power as the Church and its people get torn to shreds (which I’ve seen happen WAY too many times) – or we can:

1) Acknowledge our fears

2) Do something about them

For the re-traditioners, this will be about naming and claiming their fear of change and communicating this fear to those around them, and then allowing themselves space to grieve this loss.  For the innovators, it is about naming our fear of not being heard and of things not changing quickly enough.  For both of us, it is about sitting around the table and being present to each other’s fears and holding each other in compassion and love while the Church changes before us.

We Are Not in Charge

Here then is the trickiest part of emerging Church – WE ARE NOT IN CHARGE!  It is GOD who is calling forth this change – not us.  And this is a difficult pill to swallow for re-traditioners AND innovators alike – because ultimately, as human beings, we all want to be in charge and in control.  Instead, we are ALL invited to get out of the way so that the Church God wants to be born can be brought forth into the world – not according to our personal agenda’s, but according to God’s will.  And in this, our prayer is the very same prayer that Jesus prayed in the face of his own death, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”