Recently I read an article entitled Ten Seasons of the local Church written by Joseph Mattera, who is an interfaith church leader who writes a weekly column for several newspapers. I found some of his thoughts in the article thought provoking, not that I agree with them all, but they were good for reflection as I continue the journey.
Like most believers, there are various seasons every parish experiences (highs, lows, growth, renewal, decrease, testing and so on). Here are some of those seasons that Mattera has observed and I have as well, as a priest and leader of a parish.
I believe if we do not understand these seasons we may run from church to church looking for the church that is absolutely perfect all the time. So, it is important we take these seasons into consideration so we don’t lose our way or become confused as we continue the journey discovering God’s purpose for us as individuals and as a parish.
1- Seasons of new beginnings and birth, the most exciting time in the history of a local church. Everyone is filled with vision; many people attend and everyone is filled with great anticipation! This is just the way the early church started with wind, fire, and thousands being healed. The challenge comes when unable to survive the other seasons of their faith life.
2-Seasons of establishment in the faith and the purpose shifts to teaching. When this occurs the challenge becomes keeping the mature believers on a growth path while still being open to the newcomer who is just discovering their faith.
3- Seasons of growth, every healthy living thing reproduces and multiplies. Consequently, there are seasons of growth spurts in most parishes. This is also an exciting time and the challenge is respecting both the new comers and more established members.
4- Seasons of purging and decrease, Jesus taught the disciples that He will prune them so they can produce even more fruit. This is perhaps the hardest season for a parish because it wants to keep everybody there so it continues to grow. Unfortunately, in this highly mobile society, there is lots of moving around and blending of parishes which results in lots of increases and decrease in parishes, which can be jarring. God has a plan and we have to trust this purging and pruning will cause more fruit to manifest.
5- Seasons of correction and judgment is a part of life and is also part of who we are as a church. Adjustments are often painful and very often there are parts of our body that may need major repair or removal because they are causing distress; same is true with the church. Yes, believe it or not, a parish can be toxic if backbiting, division, and self-focus is not dealt with in a healthy fashion. God first and foremost wants us to protect our holiness as His people.
There are five more seasons that I will reflect on next week, thanks for reading.
Let us continue to pray for peace and for the end of terrorism in our world!
In peace and courage,