The Church: Community and Network

The Church: Community and Network

Dear friends!

After a long time, I’m back with a new reflection.

1st reflection: Personal experience – The search of a single member

As some of you already knew, I spend some time in the States to live and experience a certain reality of the church: Small Christian Communities (SCC). Knowing a Vietnamese priest of Louisville, Kentucky, I got in contact with a parish priest in Marysville, Michigan! I asked him, if it would be possible to get to know Small Christian Communities. I went to the USA and I was very welcome in all parishes I’ve been.

Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (Matt 10:40)

I would say, already in those days, internet was a great help. Via email I contacted priests and parishes in the States. I phoned them using Skype. The preparation of my stay was much easier by this connectivity. But besides that, I really experienced how close we are already as Christians. A parish in Marysville, Michigan welcomes a stranger from Germany; families hosted me for several weeks. Before becoming friends there was a band of brotherhood.

A Book leads to a journey

This is a report from this journey abroad: A Book leads to a journey

2nd reflection: Experience of the Church

– The Church’s body in Connectivity

What are Small Christian Communities?

Robert K. Moriarty, SM, PhD – Director/Coordinator of the Pastoral Department for Small Christian Communities in the Archdiocese of Hartford gives a short introduction into the history of Small Christian Communities as one way to restructure parish life. After the RENEW-program, this was the possibility for members to stay in touch and to live more deeply there Christian identity as a communion. More information: info.scc@aohct.org

A short list of literature concerning Small Christian Communities in English and German:

  • Baranowski, Arthur R.: Creating Small Church Communities. A plan for restructuring the parish and renewing catholic life; Cincinnati 31996.
  • Hennecke, Christian: Glänzende Aussichten. Wie Kirche über sich hinauswächst; Münster 2010.
  • Hennecke, Christian: Kirche, die über den Jordan geht; Münster 42010.
  • Hennecke, Christian (Hrsg.): Kleine Christliche Gemeinschaften verstehen. Ein Weg, Kirche mit den Menschen zu sein; Würzburg 22009.
  • Lee, Bernard J.: The Catholic Experience of Small Christian Communities; New Mahwah (NJ) 2000. 
  • O’Halloran, James: Small Christian Communities; Blackrock, Co Dublin 2002.

3rd reflection: Open source Church – Ecclesiology 2.0?

Friends from abroad will teach you who to be part of the whole Church. 

“An open source church, however, is one in which the basic functions of mission and ministry are open to anyone. Members feel free to pursue their callings from God without being forced to jump through hoops in order to do so. They do not need to sit through multiple committee meetings for approval, and they run the risk of being told no only if what they propose to do violates a common, basic understanding of what God has called the church to be and do.”

(Landon Whitsitt: Open Source Church. Making Room for the Wisdom of All, Herndon, VA 2011; p. 43). – This a contribution of a Presbyterian Theologian.

The variety of the Church is important. The local and the universal Church are more powerful and visible in these days. I can see how big and different the Church is. Thanks to our Pope Francis, we got in contact with a worldwide acting Church – a Jesuit from Argentina became Pope. The Europe centered church was brought to a deeper reflection, of how other regions impact the Church’s ordinary life. But as I can easily also in my country: The local Church of the diocese of Münster is not the local Church of the Archdiocese of Munich; even within Germany, dioceses are really different. These differences are important for the people living in their parishes with another relationship to each other or another point of view. A Bavarian is a stranger in my area, as I would be in Bavaria. I am living in a world marked by the globalisation. “New evangelization” could be an old topic. In Germany we already miss one or two generations of believers. Somehow, we couldn’t reach their hearts, and maybe also not their minds. Also a German Pope didn’t change this situation. During the first period, Pope Benedict XVI. was very popular. He came up as a poster, when he visited Germany for the WYD 2005 even in a youth-journal called BRAVO. After a certain time his popularity dwindled to an acceptation and a certain respect. His retirement was seen as a brave step and a strong decision of the long life professor Joseph Ratzinger. The election of Pope Francis brought new courage towards a process of restructuring the Roman Curia. Less centered, more responsibility for the local Church; could be the slogan I heard of.

Knowing that the Catholic Church is still the biggest Church in Germany and has an impact on the society; this Roman Church is still the global player. And the Church is a global player with many active participants. As an institution, but also as a ecclesial reality of a community build of saints and sinners. A community, in which heaven and earth takes place and getting close to each other.  But we need more pastoral associates and priests to proclaim the gospel. And we need priest and associates as testimonies of the gospel, by doing it not only by preaching. An outer view could be helpful for that aim. The internet connects us.
Due to Facebook, Twitter and Skype I stay in touch with my fellows abroad. The WYD 2013 in Brasil showed me this realty once more. Even when thousands of people are crowed, social media gives us the possibility to stay in touch and to deepen the experience of being a community.

In our days my diocese tries to darn the lack of priests and pastoral associates with priests coming from India, Ghana or Nigeria. After a short introduction into German language and culture, they become chaplains or substitutes in a parish. I’m interested into their religious know-how, which could not be a German one, obviously. What could we learn from an outer perspective on our Church? Catholic Church is a networking family. Don’t be afraid of your brother or sister from abroad; he helps you to understand more of the universal (“catholic”) Church.

I was surprised to find a theory of Cybertheology in printed books. Me writing a thesis about “Vocation”, a new horizon is open. I read Buber, Rosenzweig and Lévinas in an antropologian way. This course of P. Antonio Spadaro opened my vision to rethink also my thesis by considering also a paradigma of a networking Church in the digital era.

Why? – Two examples: The institutional Church gives us a structure of being part of a worldwide network and in his inner view also to Christ who through the Holy Spirit and through Eucharist build up HIS Church. We are linked to each other and to Him. In a certain way we can consider the internet as a HUB, like google on which the single member takes part with trough his media devices. This platform is the connection of living members who are acting as real persons. Church make these people come together as well. (Spadaro Antonio, Cyberteologia. Pensare il cristianesimo al tempo della rete, p. 65.)

Like I got in contact, more easily, with thoughts and persons abroad, in our days the computer/internet is not only an instrument, but an environment in where I live in or where I live with. It is part of our ordinary life. Without the new possibility of creating a space of connectivity, I wouldn’t have been to the United States to get to know another culture and another reality of the Church abroad. The internet is connected the Catholic world and makes it possibile to stay in touch. Like St. Paul did in ancient times trough his letters, the internet keeps the whole body of the Church visibile as one piece and allows to comunicate messages worldwide. Just this keeps us vital and this networking Church could give an effort of being a vital participant to it; build up by the community and by referring to its core Jesus Christ!

 

Pope John Paul II shows trough the encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” (EdE) a way to illuminate the unique mystery of the Church. The document points out the dialectic of the Church and the Eucharist. This dialectic refers forward to a dynamic that makes up the church. It is vital Church and has a solid core.
Eucharist is the center of the Church’s action [cf: EdE 3]. From this center the Church was born and it is this what gives identity to the Church; just because the Eucharist constitutes the nucleus, unfolds Pope John Paul II. In a second step, he goes on to name the Eucharist as the element that gives it essence of the Church and gives them life.

(John Paul II: Encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucaristia“; 04/17/2003)

The institution of the Eucharist is not possible without the participating apostles. For them it is their own to share the secret of a personal and sacramental relationship with Jesus,  carrier and at the same time host of the event [cf: Ede 11] . “[T]he Eucharist builds the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist, it follows that there is a profound relationship between the two. […]” [Ede 26]. This close connection is only possible if the church is connected as a dynamic entity with Christ. She finds her beginning in the time of the Apostles, the Church “is and remains [ … ], built upon the ,foundation of the Apostles’ ( Eph 2:20)” [Ede 27]. That’s why the Church has a solid anchor point, which was donated by the Lord himself to share the secret.
Here, the second item is particularly visible. This foundation provides the basis for building up the church. The teaching of the Apostles, the beliefs are carried on through time and with the help of the Holy Spirit handed down [cf: Ede 27].

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2,42)

What is seen is a linked Church, which takes part of a community of the faithful and a connection to its core: Jesus Christ present in his vital body through the Eucharist and through the Holy Spirit. Here are two examples from a creative thinker of “Relational Theology” Dwight Friesen, member of “Quest-A Christ Commons”; an emerging network of simple churches (Protestant and Evangelical missionaries):

Link:

“What Is a “Link”?: 

Links are relationships; it’s that simple. So when we’re looking at a network map, the line connecting any two nodes is a link. It’s a visual demonstration of the relational connection between persons or things.” 

(Dwight J. Friesen: Thy kingdom connected. What the Church can learn from Facebook, the Internet and Other Networks; Grand Rapids, MI 2009; p. 68)

Network:

“Network thinking enables us to link together the internal understanding of oneself, together with the linguistic communities and narrative histories that shape our ability to understand oneself, and with the God in whom we live and move and have our being.”

“The networked person is something of a complex integration of understandings from premodern, modern, and postmodern understandings of the person. The networked person values internal self-awareness while also humbly recognizing self-knowledge is needful of God and others. The networked person values human agency, freeing the person to pursue justice and act prophetically within his or her community. The networked person also values her or his God-givenness while not collapsing into fatalism, for they take seriously the personal and moral responsibility to be cocreators with God in the earth’s re-creation.” 

(Dwight J. Friesen: Thy kingdom connected. What the Church can learn from Facebook, the Internet and Other Networks; Grand Rapids, MI 2009; p. 92)

Sharing the experience / sharing opinions!

I would like to invite my friends from abroad leaving a comment or an own experience of how they see this connecting Church!

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