“It was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you.” –  Thess1.6

During the week, I read an article in the online magazine La Croix written by an Australian deacon, Justin Stanwix. In the article, the author poses the question, Has the parish as we know it ‘run it’s course’?

While reflecting on the impact of the coronavirus on our churches, the author also recognises that this particular time in our history is also an opportunity. Yes, many things will need to change. Yes, the concept of the parish as we knew it will need to adapt. But maybe, just maybe, these are good things. As Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium:

“The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different

Following the Pope’s lead, the author sees this time as a ‘wonderful opportunity to do something radically different.’
He writes:

We are all the People of God: not them and us. Our radical role is now.

The Church is us – not over there or hidden in a church building. We, the People of God, are the Church, right here and now. The baptismal call of priest, prophet and king has rarely been stronger.

There is a strong argument that the pandemic provides the catalyst we have been waiting for to renew our Church. We know parts are broken and we have grievously sinned.

As we move out of that phase, in God’s redemptive love, we have the opportunity to “rebuild my Church” as St Francis heard Jesus urge him from the cross at San Damiano.

We will have to be smart, because people are looking for new forms. But the parish remains the established vehicle with existing infrastructure and potential to adapt, change and transform. Radically so.

The real question is whether we are all ready to make the change, to go out into the night waters, seek the fish and help haul in the catch.

The parish on its knees – in prayer, not in rejection or grief – will be the start. Then, with the benefit of the Lord’s abundant grace, let’s put out into the deep!

How will we respond to the challenge?

What will our parish look like tomorrow?