Back in the 90s, I was the pastor of a small church in the county in which I lived. It was located in the poorest section of town and we were renting a space for our Sunday Mass. Like most small churches, we were attempting to grow. One night I received a call from someone who had heard about the church. After about a ten minute conversation the caller told me that she and her husband would come to Mass on Sunday.
Sure enough, that Sunday they showed up. It was a glorious Sunday Mass. Our singing before the service began was wonderful; the Spirit was moving, people were filled with joy and hope. After the Mass, the couple who came to visit left saying that they had never enjoyed a service as much as they did this one…and they’ll see us next Sunday.
Well, the next Sunday came and went without them, so I gave them a call one night. The woman said, “Oh, Father Ed, I’m sorry, but John and I thought we’d try a different church on Sunday and we’ve decided to join that church.” My heart sank. As we talked I asked her to help us if she could. I asked her to share with me what it was that made them choose a different church. She began to tell me how wonderful our Mass was and that there was nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong with what they had experienced. They just decided that the other church was a better fit for them. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying so I said, “As you know we’re trying to build the church. Do you have any recommendation on what we could do to be more appealing to people like yourselves?” Without any hesitation she said “Your chairs aren’t as comfortable as the other church’s chairs.”
Now, no one would say that this was a great way to choose a church. That’s a given. But what’s underneath that choice is symptomatic of what the Church has become today, especially in the U.S. We have become a church for consumers rather than servants.
From that day on, I realized why we are in what some historians describe as “the Post-Christian Era.” It appears we have lost our core values of what it means to be “called out.” In many cases, we attend church to see what we can get rather than what we can give. We posture ourselves with an attitude of, “What do you have to offer me and my family?” We see the Church as our servant rather than seeing ourselves as Servants of God’s Church.
The churches in the Diocese of St. Benedict Old Catholic Missionaries are servant churches. On any given Sunday, they run out of chairs.
We believe that many today are yearning to serve; to DO something, to GIVE back something, to feel that their lives can make a difference in the lives of others…. to live as the original church lived the best way they can; to be a part of one another’s lives.
If you want to live out the Gospel in this manner, in service to one another, then you may want to investigate who we are and what we’re doing. And if you show up at one of the diocesan churches, they’ll greet you in the love of the LORD and don’t be surprised if they ask you to help them…the very first time you come. You see, we are a group of Christian missionaries who believe we exist as a Church to serve the poor and the forgotten. We don’t have a lot of rules and regulations. We do embrace our rich heritage and celebrate a Holy Mass. When we err, and we all do, we hope we err on the side of love. All are welcome. That’s not a cliché. We mean it. Whether you’re a doctor or a pimp; live in a mansion or you’re homeless. Whether you’re married, single, “living in sin,” or in a gay relationship. All are welcome. Whatever God needs to clean up in you is between you and God. Our job is to love and serve those whom God has entrusted with us. And if you become a part of one of our communities, you’ll be invited to become a servant as well.
In Christ’s love and service,