I lobbied our parish librarian to acquire this book for our faith community. I plan to recommend everybody on the pastoral council read it. My staff colleagues, too. If any reader out there has any sense of commitment to the Catholic parish, even if you aren’t on a council or a staff, you’ll probably (hopefully) get something out of this read. It’s the best church book on my bookshelf since Jim Martin.
The authors are a pastor and one of the lay ecclesial ministers on his staff. They serve a suburban Baltimore parish that less than a decade ago they desperately wanted not to serve–or even be in. Today they have a book with three pages of testimonials, plus a foreword by the cardinal archbishop of New York.
Rebuilt is a readable and honest story of two guys who began parish ministry as clueless as anybody else. But they were soon able to admit they didn’t know what they were doing, and took steps to get it right. They went to Evangelical Christianity to find out why people, especially “dechurched Catholics,” flock to megachurches. And along the way, they found that they could apply many principles to battle the apathy, the religious consumerism, and the naysayers in Roman Catholicism.
Now they have a book, a website with instructive videos, and their parish strikes me as rather vibrant and engaging. And best of all, making a big difference in many people’s lives. They freely concede they still have problems and obstacles. They both think they can be doing things better. I think they’ll find the way, mainly because they apply one time-honored spiritual principle: they acknowledge their weakness before God. God seems to have a special place for people who are willing to throw themselves totally into service. The answers, seemingly sometimes, drop from heaven.
If I had read this book twenty to twenty-five years ago when I was buried in suburban Catholicism, I would have wanted to sell everything I had to walk or even crawl to Timonium, Maryland to be a parishioner at Nativity Church. Today, I feel privileged to work for a parish that has applied some of these good ideas, and found some solutions for which these authors are still seeking. Best of all, I feel excited about waking up tomorrow morning and going back for another day of ministry and service.
The only problem with this book is that an Ave Maria Press editor was asleep at the wheel on it. There are some spelling errors and formatting goofs. Good thing the authors get an A-plus–it makes you forget the sloppy work on this fine book.
Read it. Your parish’s future might depend on it.
I’ve yet to read this book, but it is surprising that you seem to have no reservations about a marketing campaign that, however inadvertently, reduces religion to a commodity. No creeds here? Nothing in the inherited culture of lasting value? You make no mention that the mega church model has not been successful in maintaining life-long commitments. Nor do you acknowledge that there are folks with liberal sensibilities who don’t feel comfortable in a worship environment as described by the Baltimore Sun of the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland:
“A full-band setup, including an electronic drum set, sits beside a seldom-used organ. A production booth tucked in the back right corner controls the video feeds on flat-screens set up in the hallways and projection screens on the walls behind the altar.”
I’ll concede that for some this may be welcoming and nonthreatening, but perhaps I can be forgiven for suspecting this is but one more gimmick.
That context would likely be a huge obstacle for me. Amplified accompaniment (including bombastic organ) and over-miked vocals is so oppressive as a sensory matter for me that I have to try to go to a special out-of-body place (it’s rare that it’s done well that I don’t have to do that). When I don’t get to my new parish of choice due to logistical complications, there’s no place within 4 miles of my home that has a said Mass first thing Sunday morning anymore, and the music at all the parishes within that circle only ranges from awful to lame/lazy/mediocre; homiletics are not much better and, sadly, whereas I formerly had 4 shockingly good confessors between two parishes to choose from (the most I’ve ever had, and for 7 years!), now I am down to one due to re-assignments, and he’s rarely available (2 of the replacements are, frankly, weird, of a kind that I worry scrupulants would gravitate to).
PS: On a completely unrelated topic, but since it invokes the Book of Tobit (a mutual favorite of Todd and me):
THis is the reason part of my daily prayer is devoted to those are dying, those who have lost the will to live, and those who will die each day: for their final repentance, final perseverance, and a holy and happy death. St Joseph is the patron of that last one, and we always invoke the BVM for the hour of our death, but while I know St Michael has long been the patron of those facing final judgment, I always think of St Raphael as a more, well, humorous archangel who is our companion along that final journey.
It appears to work for this parish. Better this than somnambulistic liturgies at largely empty overbuilt mausoleums from the last century.
What happens when the brilliant pastor gets moved and a new guy comes in with a different agenda?
I saw an example of this happening in Phoenix at a parish we used to visit on holiday. The whole atmosphere changed in one year – for the worse in my view.
Read the book on my ereader. It is a good read, presents an appealing vision of what parish life can be. I stand convicted of my own lack of discipleship in my parish – largely due to my bitterness about the wooden Mass Translation used today. I think some repentance is in store but just how I make restitution isn’t clear to me at present.
See also: “Re-Imagining Evangelization: Toward the Reign of God and the Communal Parish” by Fr. Pat Brennan, founding pastor of Holy Family Parish in Inverness, IL.
He patterned it after Willow Creek Church after studying what worked there by their founding pastor, Bill Hybels. I guess HF is the successful RC version of a good, vibrant Evangelical Church.
I went to it a few years back when Pat Brennan was still pastor. Trust me: it was/is unlike ANY RC church you will ever attend!
Thanks Jim. I’ve read a few books by Fr Brennan. He was also one of my colleague’s grad school professors.
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