When did we begin to believe that parish events and groups have to be as big as possible? While big events can be refreshing from time to time, they also have many drawbacks which may not help parishes to thrive.
For the most part, conversations remain relatively comfortable and superficial. I do not mean this as a critique of the people at the events, but rather in recognition of the nature of those events in and of themselves. I think we can all agree that the large outdoor picnic is not the time to discuss the deep questions of life, even when such gatherings include people of good will.
To really connect in ways that go beyond surface details, deeper bonds must be formed that require smaller, more intimate settings.
In this sense, a big goal of mine in ministry is to foster spiritual friendships, both among my parishioners and in my own personal life. For my parishioners, I want to create encounters where people are able to explore their ideas in a safe environment that meets their individual temperaments and needs.
For some, this might mean an intellectual exploration of the complex theology of the Christian tradition; a robust philosophical debate if you will. For others, it might mean a Bible study in which we learn to connect the Word of God with our personal experience. I am sure that there are as many options as there are kinds of people. The goal is not to make everyone conform to a limited way of living, but rather infusing the world with presence of Christ.
With that in mind, the whole idea of the small group is to help create a suitable environment for friendships to blossom while our friendship with God remains the root of the flower. Then, when we go out into the world to evangelize and proclaim Jesus Christ, we are not just trying to convince people of a series of propositions and rituals, but rather we are inviting others into a whole network of intimacy and communion.
Today, let us seek friendship; let us seek to build communion.