On Tuesday evening this last week, I was invited to speak at a monthly event in Brisbane called Reclaim. Reclaim is a formative faith gathering at the Emmanuel City Mission drop-in centre in South Brisbane of about 50 young adults from different parishes around the city. The event’s aim is to offer an environment in which young people can both experience fellowship with people their own age and learn about and explore their faith with the help of engaging speakers covering different topics. I had been invited by the organisers to speak about the Mass: to break open and explain different aspects of the Mass that we often experience but perhaps don’t fully understand.
In praying and thinking about how to approach this talk, I began, first, with trying to understand where the young people were at in their Christian journey. In doing so, I also had to be honest with myself in that when I left home and joined the army at 18 years old, I also left the practice of my faith behind – being more interested in going out on Friday and Saturday nights and sleeping in on Sunday mornings! The fact, however, that 50 young adults regularly gather for a faith-based event meant something important; it told me that they’re either people of faith, searching for faith, or simply open to what God can do for/with them in their lives.
This process of working out where they are at caused me to move nearly entirely away from what I’d been asked to speak about – the parts of the Mass – and instead, focus on what our purpose is as baptised people when we’re dismissed. Friends, the irony of typical parish life – or perhaps more accurately, typical parish culture – was not lost on me as I prepared to encounter these young people who are curious about faith. (Ours, by the way, is not a typical parish and I mean that in the positive sense).
Typical parish life looks something like this: each week, congregations faithfully gather in different churches around the parish to celebrate the highest form of worship – the Mass. Each week, people look around the church and bemoan the fact that so many young adults and families with children are missing. They wish they would come to us and have a good experience but regular Mass-goers are also mostly happy with the status quo – and those who are not usually keep their thoughts to themselves, perhaps hamstrung by not knowing what to do even if they wanted to. And so, week after week around the parish, people meet to faithfully celebrate what they’ve always done and they’re mostly happy with it. Something exciting, outside of the status quo, is happening in our parish however.
I think it would be fair to say that the missional outlook/focus of a parish can be judged on the number/quality of opportunities that exist for people to gather for faith-based reasons outside of Mass – particularly for those who may not be regular Mass-goers. I mean, if we’re serious about creating experiences to help people move into a relationship with Jesus, then we can’t expect them to start with a faith-experience – the Mass – that has little-to-no meaning for them.
Our new youth group – Kingdom Youth – is currently leading the way as an opportunity for young people to gather for a guided faith experience. Kingdom Youth is about grass-roots evangelisation through face-to-face ministry and this is made possible through many people’s generosity. Indeed, your generosity in putting your offering to God on the collection plate each week is not taken for granted. Considering that 60% of our worshiping community are over 70 years old, your generosity forms a tangible and active participation in the evangelising efforts of our parish and as a parish team, we wish to acknowledge you and thank you.
We are currently in discussion about ways to extend our mission-orientated outreach to parents in our two schools, to baptism parents, to providing a grief support team to funeral families and people living in the Aura Community. These are the next four areas that we’re going to be working on deliberately but your help is needed. We’re looking to create short term focus group with families who have different levels of connection with the parish in order to learn from them; we’re looking for people willing to support the monthly baptism preparation evening; we’re looking for people who are interested in offering grief-support to those in need; and we’re also looking for people who are interested in helping build a Catholic culture in the Aura Community. Please contact the parish office if you feel called to serve in any of these mission-orientated areas.