I have no illusions of ever taking part in the parish model that the church created in the fifties. I have been told not to expect it from every angle. As far as I can tell no one has a clear understanding of what priest will actually be doing in thirty years. I do, however, have three basic expectations for the new setting.
First congregations whose disappearance will have no affect on the surrounding community will have disappeared. Congregations must take ownership of their parishes and become centers of community organizing and services. The time of the Christian Social Club is over the time of the Christian Societal Servants must return.
Second we must realize that assimilation is futile. Congregations must be expected to change themselves as much as they change others. We must stop bowing to the idols of our ritual proclivities and narrow interpretations of truth, adiaphorae, and walk into the Unknowable Truth.
Third we must stop attempting to evangelize. Instead we must begin a pilgrimage of discovering how and where God is acting in the lives outside of the church institution. This involves not only stopping to listen but also interviewing and in the end responding from our resources.
Obviously these are not three linear points but three points in a circular relationship to each other. This is my interpretation of the current popular phrase “missional” but I feel is the same call to reform that has rampantly existed throughout the history of the church.