Being the Church In and For Our Local Community

by Mark Votava


It seems that whenever I am having a bad day, I always try to return to a sense of deep listening while keeping my own responsibility of faithful presence within me. This keeps me in touch with my own love, grace and humility in everyday life. It keeps me from becoming frustrated and treating others with disrespect. I seem to need this to live my life in an intentional way that is good for the world around me.

  •  Deep listening in the parish

Stewarding our presence is about a deep listening in the parish. Deep listening could shape us tremendously. The Spirit is calling us to listen again and again in everyday life together. Our everyday lives should be characteristic of listening. Listening becomes like a sacrament of new wine being poured into new wineskins that Jesus taught about.

  •  Join with what the Spirit is doing in our communities

“This might sound counterintuitive, but it is important to realize that by listening carefully we may be able to discern where we can join with what the Spirit is doing in our communities,” says Alan J. Roxburgh. “This practice of joining with the Spirit… will give us the capacities to discover fresh ways of being the church in and for our communities…” 

  •  Leading us to an awareness

The Spirit is leading us to an awareness of Christ’s ongoing work in the parish. Stewarding our presence together helps us to discern and partner with what is going on in the place we inhabit. If we listen, we will slowly start to see relational revelations in everyday life happening often all around us in the place we live.

  •  Becoming the church in and for our local community

We become the church in and for our local community as we listen, as we steward our presence. We become listeners together through the parish imagination. The parish imagination joins in with what the Spirit is doing in the place we inhabit together.

  •  Taking the risk of interdependence

“Becoming incarnate will mean the same for us as it did Christ. We will have to experience being small and defenseless, requiring nurture from our host world just as Christ needed Mary’s milk. We cannot and must not remain rootless people or rootless churches. Christ needed water from the earth, food from the ground, education from his elders; yet we too often experience church as an organization that has absolutely no need for its surrounding community or area,” writes Kester Brewin. “It is too often an appendage, something slightly apart and independent, not needing the neighboring culture in order to survive. To admit our need as a church, our dependence on our host culture, is a risk. Yet like Christ we must take this risk of interdependence, this risk of being born, this risk of life.” 

What comes to mind when you hear the words faithful presence?


My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist