PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


December, 2018

A Challenging Read

            Jack Jezreel has just published a book entitled, A New Way To Be Church: Parish Renewal from the Outside In. (Orbis Books, 2018.)  He created “JustFaith,” a small group process that immerses people in education and exploration of social justice issues.  “The process was intended to prepare people for social mission.  I was hoping this would have the effect of making people passionate about the work of mercy and justice.” (p. 121)  “JustFaith” demands a significant commitment from participants over six months, including weekly meetings, assigned reading and direct connection with those on the margins.  This book does the same, asking parishes to change their vision, structures and actions. 


The Mission Belonging to All

            The first step is to change the culture of the parish, to one that is “Completely Mission-Oriented,” according to the author.  The Gospels describe Jesus and a group of followers constantly in motion, moving out on a mission and forming relationships with others.  These encounters “can and do change everything.” (p. 13)  No longer can a parish organize itself primarily around itself.  Instead, suggests Jezreel, “A parish renewal that is completely mission-oriented is a parish that will inspire, empower, heal, transform, and provide its members with a spiritual and geographical blueprint for their lives that will change them forever.” (p. 20)



            A parish on mission reorders its priorities and operation so there is an equal share of “gathering” and “sending.”  Components of gathering include formation, worship, community-building; all of the aspects that take place on parish property or close to it.  Sending is “out on the streets,” as Pope Francis puts it.  It has to do with refugees, the homeless and unemployed, prisoners, peacemaking, and dealing with crises.  “Gathering and sending; it cannot be one or the other.  It is necessarily and unavoidably both.” (p. 26)  In a typically challenging way, Jack Jezreel writes, “Why not a kind of restructuring so that parishes ask everyone – everyone – to commit to a social ministry? . . .  Why not half of the parish budget for gathering and half for sending? . . .  Why not half of the parish staff dedicated to gathering and half dedicated to sending? . . . Why not half of the parish buildings dedicated to gathering, like worship centers and classrooms, and half of the parish’s buildings dedicated for sending, like hospitality houses, clinics, low-income housing, and literacy centers?” (p. 32-33).


Six Things A Parish Can Do  (pp. 73-79)

  1. Help people connect with someone who is poor. Get to know the person and form a relationship. “We need to give ourselves a face-to-face opportunity to care about somebody who’s poor.”      
  2. Ask questions and search for answers. “This work might sometimes seem dry, hard and overly academic, but its inspiration is love.”
  3. Start to advocate. “The parish should be a place where serious attention is given to the issues affecting the poor and vulnerable, and should empower its members to act.”
  4. Work side by side with those who are poor as they help themselves. “It is powerful and exciting to be part of the process or project that includes people of various economic backgrounds working together.”
  5. Share your resources. “Do not underestimate the potency of sharing your wealth. . . . Earmark some of your tithe for local causes, some for international causes, and some for person-to-person support.”    
  6. The work of compassion, to make an option for the poor, is most effectively and faithfully done in teams. “We must work together; if not, we fall prey to burnout, cynicism, recklessness or the tyranny of our own egos.” This way of operating not only connects with those in need, it transforms the parish community as well.