On Tuesday afternoon I drove “over the hill” to the West Coast for an evening adult formation session for the parishes of the West Coast. The drive across the alps was as always spectacular and at the time I facebooked some images from the journey.
But the real highlight of the day was the opportunity to spend time over a meal and then in more structured conversation with the people who had gathered. Because so many of our Christchurch Diocese parishes are engaged in church building and restoration projects I had titled the session “Building Firm in Faith: the architecture of Catholic parish life.”
Having just completed studies in the field of liturgy (including art and architecture) I am enjoying a renewed and heightened sensitivity to the beauty and the breadth of all dimensions of Catholic life. I know too that many Catholics of my own age are eagerly seeking opportunities to grow in knowledge and appreciation of this faith.
Some parishes are grasping at resources which appear to help parishioners to embrace the challenge of building the city of God here on earth. Personally I feel exhausted at the thought of such massive mission, and I am grateful that there is a more effective method for this task. My conviction about this comes from experience of God as the chief protagonist in any progress that I make in any project. The same is true for parish life: secular techniques of community-building and parishioners’ attempts to “grow our parish” are effective only to the extent that each individual is encountered by Christ and seeks to respond to this divine outreach of friendship in a life of humble gratitude.
At the heart of the “architecture of Catholic parish life” is not the building or rebuilding of the parish church or programmes that seek to grow the show. The liturgy of the church is the central action of Christ, and (in one of the most quoted phrases from the Second Vatican Council) the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.
Thank you to the group of Coasters who inspired me on Tuesday evening! You are on the right track – and I am grateful for the opportunity to journey this road together.
+ The image above is the Hokitika of parish church of St. Mary’s. It has been closed for the past couple of years while the options of earthquake strengthening or rebuild are considered. The choice is now to strengthen this beautiful and historic church (100 years). This process will involve removing the tower and replacing (perhaps at a later date) with an identical but more light-weight tower
+ The image below is of the St Columbkille’s convent chapel in Hokitika. The school in this building was closed in 1973 and soon after the buildings including the beautiful chapel were demolished. However the parishioners informed me that the window from this chapel has been recently rediscovered hidden in the church…