3 Jun 2017

HOLY COW! Or: Why the cookie cutter doesn't work

            The parish I serve has a unique location: this community has a long history and tradition of rowing, and many competitions are held here as a result. The church building is itself right across the street from the grandstand.
            Naturally, we captialise on this.
            Whenever a big regatta is happening, we are a visible presence in the community! Placing ourselves on the front yard, we hold a barbecue. We call it the "Holy Cow! BBQ" - it's become a brand, we try to milk it for all it's worth, herd spectators our way, beef up sales... the puns are udderly ridiculous. I'll MOOve past them.
            The thing with Holy Cow is it works for us; our location, our facilities, our volunteers.  It would not work in other places, or on weekends when a regatta is not taking place.
            And that's fine; it doesn't have to. Likewise, other events at other parishes and other communities and other circumstances wouldn't work here.
            It doesn't mean we can't try them; it just means we have to be realistic in our expectations. Not every effort is going to be a rousing success!
            And, I dare say, not everything *should* be a rousing success. That leads to a cookie cutter mentality, and that is not what the church should be about. The church should embrace being the unique expression that it is and offering the distinct gifts it has. Church ought not be just re-creating some event or programme that someone else has done; it's about discerning the movement of the Spirit, to engage with the charisms of the community, to exercise the best possible ministry for each place and time.
            Maybe it's a praise band on a weekend night; maybe it's a derivative of Theology on Tap, maybe it's a BBQ that helps raise funds for the mission, ministry, and outreach while conversing with the local community.
            And once those things happen, and the Spirit is undeniable, the entire place can delight in the authentic and simultaneous engagement with both the world and with the divine. Not unlike that first Pentecost, the Spirit will move and blow and inspire. And she'll do so differently for each faithful person, congregation, and community.
            Come, Holy Spirit, come: inspire us to your will for this place.

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