Paulists James C. Gorman and Robert S. Rivers write in America with their concerns on the upcoming Synod on the New Evangelization. Their leadoff premise:
(W)e have some worries about the pastoral implementation of this enterprise. We suspect that the recent emphasis on evangelization is merely an attempt to draw those who have left the church back to an institution of the past.
Fathers Gorman and Rivers move forward from there with a healthy assessment of where real evangelization is taking place these days. At the doors of the church, not so much. More at these “entry points”: Social/Peer Networks, Family, Work, the Search for Transcendence, Service in the Public Square, and Life Passages.
With the support and insistence of the pastor, my staff colleagues have gotten more outside of our building the past few years and on campus and into the campustown/Greek district which surrounds us. Not just the staff, but the peer ministers and other student leaders, too. I see the signs that we’re on the right track. Seventy-five percent of small groups and Bible studies now take place on campus or in the apartments of students. We know that many students are not prepared to darken our doors. But they will respond to the invitation, witness, and leadership of their peers.
An indictment of parishes:
Congregations have yet to figure out how to meet and engage people where they are. Rarely are they present at the points of intervention listed above. The challenge is to be there—creatively! Only then can we gather people into communities of faith. Only then will we see a truly new evangelization.
As much as we look to the Synod Fathers for inspiration and recommendations for evangelization, the real challenge is ours. It is we who must go where people gather and provide Word, sacrament and fellowship to them.
This strikes me as true. I will watch what comes out of Rome this month. But I’m expecting more dead-ends–offshoots from misdiagnosis.