The New Evangelization promoted by Popes JPII, Benedict and Francis and the move to “mission” from “maintenance” advocated by many groups within the Church to facilitate this newness of evangelization requires that we evaluate our “culture” with a view to altering that culture over time to accommodate a new vision of outreach: a new way of doing things. I wrote about this in general terms in my most recent blog [TINKERING WITH THE PROCESS: ADJUSTING CULTURE].
The process of sustaining a cultural shift in our Catholic Christian communities must be intentional if we are to avoid sliding back into maintenance. At St Joseph’s church in Vanderhoof we have already experienced some resistance to the very notion of “evangelization” and the “new evangelization” and the use of ALPHA as a tool for the “new evangelization”. This is to be expected. We are asking our members to reach out in invitation to friends, family members, workmates and acquaintances to encourage their invitees to participate in an Alpha course and for many of our people this type of activity is outside of their comfort zones. We Catholics in the past have often avoided the “invite”, even though we are aware of the gospel imperative to evangelize, justifying our inaction on the basis that our Church has “professionals”: Priests, Nuns and other consecrated religious who they think and say are better equipped for this type of ministry. This attitude exposes the “maintenance” church approach and a culture of clericalism and it is alive and kicking but it should not be a surprise.
In the face of cultural opposition in our own communities we need to be patient, but we need also to be persistent as we seek to design and advocate for paths to mission. As our congregations become more familiar with the nuances of the “new evangelization” and they see the effect on the community of programs such as ALPHA, which by itself introduces a culture of hospitality and invitation, they will warm to the effects of culture change even if they are not fully conscious that the community’s culture is undergoing a shift. This is the approach that many communities in the Devine Renovation Network have taken as they tackle their own culture issues.
Our Alpha course commences on the 19th of September, just under a month away. Over the next four Sunday’s, after Mass, we will attempt to inspire our community with the joy of bringing other to Jesus. We know that some will respond positively, and some won’t. We also know that the Holy Spirit is behind this initiative and that many of those culturally challenged will eventually embrace the changes that the shift in culture brings.