Risking Relational Practice in the Parish

by Mark Votava

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I have lived a lot of my life afraid of the many of things that I really can’t control.  So it is easy for me to live within a safe comfort zone of my own making.  This has led me to a life of pursuing individualism and independence apart from the community I live within.  Risking interdependence is too difficult and countercultural.

But I am finding a way out of my comfort zone and living as if others mattered.  This has been shaping me more and more as the years go by.  Risking new ways of being and doing have brought life to me.

  •  Being pushed out of our comfort zones

We need to learn how to risk our lives in the parish.  Our everyday lives need to embrace the practice of living on the ground in humility toward one another.  Nothing is scarier than the practice of humility, because in humility we lose all our techniques of control and escapism.  We are pushed out of our comfort zones.

  •  Experiments around local ways of living relationally

Our relationships become fashioned by a new paradigm of valuing one another’s humanity.  We can no longer walk past someone without regard for their wellbeing.  This calls us to a new and disturbing degree of risk that will shake us to the core of who we are. This calls for new experiments around local ways of living relationally.

  •  Stepping into the unknown

Risk is about stepping into the unknown and being shaped by what we experience there. It is more mysterious than anything we have ever known and shatters all our propositions of preconceived ideas.  The communal imagination lives by this kind of risk. It takes humility to live into authentic risk as a way of life.

  •  Relational practice in the parish

How does change take place within us?  It takes place through relational practice in the parish.  We are shaped through the ongoing practice of humility toward one another.  We are shaped when we risk seeing the humanity in another.

  • Having some empathy for others

We are shaped when we honor and value our neighbor.  We need the humility to risk just being in our humanity and having some empathy for others who seem different from us. We need to risk seeing the commonality in one another.  We need the humility to risk opening our lives to others relationally and trusting one another.

  • Cultivating the imagination

Relationships don’t work without the risk of humility.  Our imaginations are inspired by the intuition and creativity that risk cultivates within us.  We need to cultivate the imagination to live into relationships differently than those we have known in the past.  Relationships are to be valued and not taken advantage of.

  • Risk new ways of being and doing

Relationships need gratitude not contempt.  Relationships need honor not objectification. To have a new imagination for relationships involves  risk, and it takes a lot of humility to sustain them.  Mark Scandrette notes, “If we want to change, we have to risk new ways of being and doing …”

How can we risk living relationally in the parish?