Monday, March 19
What Makes a Parish?
This post, a Muslim reflecting on the Jewish community life of Hasidic Jews, was interesting to me.
It reflects simultaneously the very strong cultural identity of Orthodox Jews, which gives them a very religious-centered social life even when their actual practice of religion is in crisis, and the desire (expressed by a commenter) for the same kind of social closeness in mosques.
All of which reminds me of a discussion Lucy and I had yesterday about Catholic parish life--which, I think today can comprise both ends of this spectrum. In the South, people are used to the local church being a primary venue of socialization, and so Catholics (following Protestant example?) can tend to form all sorts of social clubs at their parishes and be much more active in church life. Indeed, Catholicism is blossoming in the South, as has been maintained consistently by Amy.
In the Midwest and Northeast, you get much more of a mixed bag: if you're in a small Midwestern town, well, you already know everyone in your parish since it's a small town. Here the parish may not be a route of socialization in forming new relationships, but it does lead to a close parish community. In the ethnic areas of the Northeast, or the Polish areas of Chicago, nationalities bind together worshippers who come from Catholic cultures. We're also seeing this happen with Latinos, as they bring the beautiful integrity between Catholicism and their cultures to America. This is an example of the parish being a means of socialization, but you have to share the culture for that to happen.
So then we get to the megaparishes of the Midwest and Northeast. You can attend such a parish for five, even ten years and never meet anyone, unless you go out of your way to do so, or volunteer for a committee--but a parish can only have so many committee members.
So this is my question: imagine you're faced with such a megaparish. You'd like the parish to be at least one way mode of socializaiton---you'd like to have friends through church. What do you do? Rather than hearing people insist that such a megachurch is "the St. Cunigunda family/faith community," what steps can members take to make it feel like one?
I think the best idea I've heard would have to be inviting the couple next to you over for doughnuts after Mass, and ask only that next week they also invite someone else to their house for doughnuts after Mass, and the chain reaction goes from there. Obviously there are some drawbacks: you would have to be a bit of an extrovert, and it would probably be awkward to do unless you were a married couple inviting over a married couple. I read about this idea in a book that describes it working very well, and if it hadn't worked I might be skeptical that it could.