Faithful Presence in the Parish

by Mark Votava


What if we saw the church not as a building or a gathering we go to, but as a network of relationships in the particular place that we live?  What if we saw the parish as the neighborhood we live in, the context where we practice being the body of Christ together in everyday life?  What if we became faithfully present to the parish we live in?  Then our spirituality would be about living in the neighborhood with people and learning to love.

  • Living in proximity

Our spirituality would be about living in proximity in the parish.  There would be no more reliance on driving our cars to church and going home to leave the local community behind.  The local community would become home, worship and work space in everyday life.  We would become the body of Christ to the world through the local place we live.

  • Becoming faithfully present

It wouldn’t matter so much where you attended a gathering, as to living in the neighborhood where the gathering is, becoming faithfully present and learning to find some collaboration with other people who have redemptive hopes for that place.  This would change everything because it would take the focus off of the highly reliant theology of the mind and embed our theology into a more balanced practice-based embodiment of everyday life together in the parish.  This paradigm shift would help us to live incarnate instead of excarnate lives where love is all that matters in the place we live.

  • Becoming the most rooted people in our community

Michael Frost states in his new book Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement, “I believe Christians should be the most rooted people in their community; their loyalty and devotion to a particular geographic area and everyone who lives there should be legendary…”

  • Living out a way of life together

This would help us to not to be so individualistic, independent and competitive.  Things would not be about growing a gathering, but about caring for a local community, living out a way of life together, loving the world in the context where we live.  Interdependence, love, compassion, solidarity, humility, grace, simplicity, collaboration and relational living are what we are all called to practice together in everyday life.

  • The medium of discipleship – a practice of love

A Christianity without a practice of love is meaningless and destructive.  A Christianity where we are not rooted and committed to the parish together is an illusion because there will be no place to practice being the body of Christ together in everyday life.  There will be no mission, community or formation together.  The parish is the medium of discipleship that shapes us to become people of love in the world together as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  • The unifying paradigm of parish

As Kathy Escobar so wonderfully says in her book Down We Go, “…humans have a natural propensity toward homogeneity and structures that keep us safely contained with other people most like us…  We tend to stick with other people who look like us, think like us, act like us and believe like us.  It makes life much easier…”  The parish blows all of this apart.

How can we find some unity together through becoming faithfully present to the parish?

This post is a part of the April 2014 synchroblog where Kathy Escobar has asked fellow bloggers to contribute to the conversation of what will bring healing and unity to the divisions in the body of Christ.