June 09, 2006

More about our church

Two weeks along, and I've learned more than I want to know about our parish. Our priest handled the "resignation" of our Faith Formation director in an unbelievably awful way. Our pastoral council seems blinded to the realities in front of them, and I've heard from numerous people who have given up on the church entirely (not just our parish, but the Catholic church more generally). Apparently the difficulties are not only in our parish, but also in our sister parish, St. Luke's. (Writing about this issue here has led to much commiseration from people I had no idea had any connection at all to either church -- the wonders of the blogosphere!)

It's very difficult to know what, if anything, to do about any of this. Eric and I have pretty much decided that one of the only forms of structural power we have left, is to stop our weekly electronic funds transfer to IHM. We're trying to figure out where to send that money, instead. One possibility is Mary's Pence, another would be Voice of the Faithful. I suppose yet another would be Womenchurch Convergence.

In the meantime, I'm trying to draft as thoughtful and yet as purposely defiant a letter as I can to our parish pastoral council, to explain the action we're taking. And we're starting to organize a bit to think about what a house church might be. You know, it's kind of interesting. In Protestant contexts a situation like this would probably lead to the splintering off of part of the community, and the founding of a new church. But in the Catholic context, where such an option doesn't exist, we're trying to think about how to be present in our parish -- not let them kick us out, but also not get eaten up inside by anger -- and how to build some alternative space.

I remember once reading a book about "dissenting in place." I suspect that that's what we need to learn how to do, in even more creative a way than we had been doing. Our little parish had been an oasis of sorts for critical and progressive Catholics. It had been a space of nourishment and collaboration, a space where we could practice the heart of our faith in collaborative ways, taking very seriously the centers of Catholic thought and faith.

Well, that space has been shut down -- pretty thoroughly! -- and it reminds me, yet again, of how much structural power priests really do hold in our system. But just because they hold that power doesn't mean we don't hold other sorts of power. And as I said to a friend who remembers our parish from before, but is now out in California -- change is coming. I doubt our priest thought he would be the catalyst for this kind of change, but the Holy Spirit moves in remarkably mysterious ways.

This experience has made me more conscious than ever of the necessity of creating spaces and networks for sharing resources -- yet one more reason for the open source religious resources network. I think I want to concentrate, personally, on creating some resources for living in the midst of this kind of situation.

Any of you with suggestions or ideas -- send them on!

Posted by hessma at June 9, 2006 07:07 PM