Moveable Feasts

One of the nice things about not being attached to a particular parish is that I often have the opportunity to attend services at "other parishes" to see how they do things or to worship with my family and not be working.  When it comes to special occasions, this is particularly true.  I enjoyed Christmas Lessons and Carols at the Cathedral with my mother in December, and tonight I will enjoy Epiphany Lessons and Carols at St Bartholomew's with my husband.  I get to enjoy and participate in worship and I get ideas that I can bring to the next parish I serve.

I was thinking today, though, about parishes and parishioners and how our model is usually that one belongs to a parish and goes to all that parish's events and probably doesn't go to other parishes for their events, at least not very often, because one is pledged (literally) to their own parish.  Sometimes this also works with parish mission work as well.  Many parishes do not work with other parishes to do mission - each has its own.  Oh, maybe they would like to combine with another church but who has the time to work out those details?  Unless it's something like a mission in another country/part of our country in which multiple churches will work together (a la Haiti, New Orleans, etc.).

Then there is the nature of membership and how that is shifting with younger people:  there is less "brand consciousness" and more "shopping" that goes on even regarding church.  Which church has activities that appeal?  What if two churches appeal - one for mission and one for worship?  Does one have to choose?  Can one be sort of members of two parishes?

Or can parishes rotate services - Holy Week here this year, there next?  Epiphany?  Pentecost?  Ash Wednesday?  Children's pageant?

How can a parish have fairly porous borders and yet keep its identity and shape?  Are parishes willing to share parishioners for "events" or collaborate locally in mission?  How will this impact the budget?  How does this impact the numbers - parochial reports, pledging units, etc.?  Does this make more work for the staff or less?  I think we tend to use the "nuclear family" model for church - each church is supposed to have everything its parishioners needs, and if it doesn't, well, that's ok.  But who hasn't seen the phenomenon of the traveling youth group?  One year this church has the active/thriving youth program and then in a few years a different church has it (perhaps due to a change in the youth leader) and the local kids follow the thriving program, be it the Presbyterian Church or the Methodist Church or the Episcopal Church.  Kids want to be with their friends.

How OK are we with all that?   We pray that we all may be one....

Questions to chew on.

(Nativity:  Clay tiles, Puerto Rico)