Where have all the priests gone, long time passing…?
At a convocation meeting this week a senior priest in our diocese cautioned us that we need to begin taking the job of raising new clergy from our congregations seriously, if we are to continue being the Church as we know it in the post-baby-boomer era.
It was a sobering moment as the priest invited us to consider the number of clergy positions that will be open in the next few years as retirements escalate and pulpits and altars become vacant.
This is one piece of a very complex puzzle.
A transition-ministry colleague in the Midwest wrote on Facebook this week:
The priest shortage continues. With 17 diocese (Province 5-6-7) presenting we have:
40 full time positions
18 clergy presented as available
My colleagues also noted countless part time positions in their diocese that are open.
Lord have mercy. Friends we need to find different ways of being the Church.
I am delighted with the openness and transparency with which we are able, now, to address the Changing Church. And, like my colleague in the Midwest, I believe that the time has come for us to try out some different models for being Church, here in Central Pennsylvania.
Old Models: merging, yoking, circuit riding, clusters, formation of locally raised priests
New Models: churches without bricks and mortar, ecumenical “merging,” inviting shared space with secular partners, hub ministry, regional missional presence, lay pastorates, cross-diocesan partnerships, and more.
This step into trying on new models requires a willingness to risk, experiment, and to be vulnerable.
It also assumes that we are all on the same page about what it means to “be church.”
Hence, Important Discussion Number One: What do We Think We’re Doing Here?
Until we can agree on a definition of What Church is All About, then we’re going to be at cross purposes in designing experiments and new models for being Church.
Here’s what I think Church is all about. I’d invite you to think, on your own about this and, if you have other ideas, to add them in the comments section below of on my Facebook Page.
· A gathering of people to worship God in the beauty of holiness.
· A gathering of people to celebrate and be strengthened by the sacraments.
· A gathering of people to hear and respond to the Word of God in Community.
· A gathering of people who share common values and ethics based on Jesus’ Way.
· A place where all are welcome, diversity is valued and love of neighbor is practiced without restraint.
· A place that is used as a resource for serving God’s mission by hosting groups, educational and formational activities focused on nurturing the human body and soul in ways that promote healing and/or growth in faith
· A place that is not conflict-free, but a place in which the truth is spoken in love and difficulties are reconciled.
· A place where one can find community.
· A place from which we are sent to serve God’s mission in the world caring for the least of these and striving, as participants in God’s mission, for justice, peace and love.
What do you think?
Please join this forum and add your own ideas.
In future weeks, I hope to address other parts of the “puzzle” here in this blog. They include (but are not limited to)
· What is Church? (beginning in this entry)
· Lay and Clergy leadership (including Raising and Forming leaders) and the Quarter-time Priest phenomena
· Regional Presence vs. A Parish in Every Town (Convocational identity and collaboration)
· Diocesan structures and service