Reading Francis, continued.

The Unitarian Universalist clergy is now discussing the perceived differences between parish and community ministry.  Pope Francis, however, seems to think that parish ministry is community ministry, or, at least, it should be.

Pope Francis:
28. The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”.[26] This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.[27] In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers.[28] It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.  (emphasis added.)

Is our fear that our parishes have become "useless structures out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few"?

Of course, Francis is a Roman Catholic and not a congregationalist.  But our congregationalism leads us to define the local body as the financial supporters. It predisposes a UU congregation to be a self-absorbed group of a chosen few.  But we could re-think that and change, by shifting our focus from who pays to who is being served.


  1. Thanks, Tom.

    The Roman Catholic parish tradition differs from our parish tradition in that it assumes as many priests in any parish as God will send. Yes, there is the pastor, but if you talk to them, they are always rejoicing when more priests are sent to assist them. Totally the opposite of too many UU parish clergy, who worry about the diminution of their salary or stature.

  2. Clyde Grubbs6:20 PM

    Do what you love and the money will follow? Congregations with missions to the community extend their potential for income beyond the pledge unit.


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