8 Reasons Why the Parish Shapes Us

by Mark Votava


This post is about some of the main reasons why I think the parish, a particular geographic place of a neighborhood, shapes us.  I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of parish as I have been living in Downtown Tacoma for a little over a decade.  I love the idea of rooting in the parish over a long period of time.  Here are some of the reasons why I think the parish shapes us:

1. It presents us with a new paradigm of a spirituality in everyday life.  The parish is about connecting with others in everyday life.  It is about being the body of Christ as a network of relationships within that particular place.

2. We can no longer hide.  When we live in a place for any number of years, if we are intentional,  we will become known for who we are.  The good, the beautiful, the ugly, the difficult parts of us will be known.  The parish becomes the medium of discipleship and a means to discovering our true selves.

3. Rootedness teaches us to love and show compassion to our neighbors.  It is hard to focus our spirituality on love.  The parish teaches us to love.  The parish teaches compassion.  To live life we need a practice of love and compassion in everyday life together.

4. It creates a context for us to practice our faith.  The parish gives us a context in the world to practice what we have come to believe God is leading us to.  It helps us to engage with our culture in a relational way of faithful presence.

5. It causes us to understand our limitations and responsibilities.  The parish shows us what we can do and what we can’t do in our bodies in the here and now.  It brings to us a posture of serenity where we accept the things we cannot change, ask for the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

6. We have to reimagine what community can be over time.  It stretches our imaginations to dream and persevere in the difficult times of losing hope.  The parish teaches us to experiment, believe in others and value the diverse ways of human connection that happens when we stay in a place for any number of years.

7. It pushes us to engage the world in ordinary ways.  Our spirituality is no longer about abstract hype, but becomes about seeing God in the ordinary moments of everyday life together.  We start to see all of life as sacred where our neighbors are revelations of God.

8. It puts us in conflict with the dominant narratives of consumerism.  We start to become more aware of the needs and feelings of others.  We start to simplify our lives by not working so many unnecessary hours so we can buy things we really don’t need that much.  Loving others becomes more valuable than buying things.

How can we become shaped by the parish in everyday life together?