Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How popular is "popular" religion?

Much of our time as concerned seminarians is spent wondering how exactly we can put our training in the gospel message into "everyday language". Hmm... well.

We're always having to dumb it down, simplify it, etc. Now I'm the last person who would have time for an intellectually elitist faith. It's not per say intellectual snobbery but rather a function of priorities that prompts me to ask - How popular is "popular" religion?

I mean seriously. If we're going to be a witness to the world, and the world we Westerners live in is certainly a very intellect-heavy world, then how far can be expected to dumb down the message while still expecting to be a meaningful part of people's lives?

It seems that if our parishioners aren't willing to spend at least a couple of hours a week besides church time in study, prayer, and intentional reflection on their faith, then faith will always be at a disadvantage in the intellectual sphere. I don't think it's a function of IQ. Aside from grades I could teach a monkey most of the basics that we learn in seminary... but the monkey and I would need a lot of time.

I believe we've moved into a new age in faith. This age will be less church-centric in the physical sense. It might not be ideal, but it will be a reality. We must adapt. There are thousands of tools thought up in dark corners of seminaries and parish councils on a regular basis, but few make it into the church's bloodstream.

It will be important for priests to gradually adopt a similar motif that Rabbis serve in Jewish communities, or ministers in many Protestant communities. Liturgical services and Sacramental celebrations are great, but in my honest opinion they will need to become less and less important in terms of our cultural DNA, replaced by more time spent in small groups, meeting parishioners where they are and when they have time, teaching them the faith through Scripture studies and small group ministries.

This will also be made possible primarily by the empowerment of small group leaders so that priests don't have to do everything. Lay leaders will be the key to promoting the faith in a more and more geographically disconnected reality that moderns find themselves in.

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