Caring for a Particular Place

by Mark Votava


I am slowly coming to see that my individual life has limitations so I need to become a part of a collaboration of relationships in a particular place so I can bring a sense of love into the world.  I cannot do this by myself.  The place I live is the context to create a new imagination for the world in the present moment of shared life with others.

•  Creating a sustainable culture

The parish imagination creates a sustainable culture, a livable environment, a holistic counterculture among us.  Christ is revealed to the world through the parish imagination.

•  An incarnational understanding of the church

Robert E. Webber says in his book Ancient-Future Faith, “The church is therefore to be regarded as a kind of continuation of the presence of Jesus in the world.  Jesus… is visibly and tangibly present in and to the world through the church.  This is an incarnational understanding of the church.  It is a unique community of people in the world, a community like no other community because it is the presence of the divine in and to the world.  This conception of the church has specific relevance to the world of postmodernism.”

•  Our lives together in everyday life

Our lives together in the parish, is “a kind of continuation of the presence of Jesus
in the world.”  Christ is always present to our world, but others need help to sense this presence through our lives together in everyday life.  The body of Christ is the physical presence of Christ to our watching world in the parish.

•  Becoming the hands and feet of Christ to the world

When we share life together through the parish imagination, we demonstrate Christ’s love to the place we inhabit together.  We become the hands and feet of Christ in and to the world through the parish.  We can only live in the world through place.  We can only be incarnational in and to the world through place.

•  A local culture of relational care

When a local culture of relational care is absent from a place, the result will be exploitation and destruction in the long run.  When there is no local culture in the parish, nobody seems to care for it.  Nobody will stand up for it.  Nobody will protect it from exploitation.

•  Caring for and protecting a place from exploitation

Wendell Berry says in his book What Are People For?, “Lacking an authentic local culture, a place is open to exploitation, and ultimately destruction, from the center…”  If we are not serious about an “authentic local culture,” we cannot be the body of Christ together.  It is the call of the body of Christ to inhabit a place, to care for its place, to protect its place from exploitation and colonialism.

How can we create a local culture of relational care together?