RIP, My Friend

Roman ChurchRelationships are strange.  People come and go from our lives.  Loves grow cold and cease because of a lack of intentional kindling of the fire and sometimes simply because the partners are incompatible.  On occasion, the purpose of the relationship comes to its fruition and the need passes.   Other times, one of the partners becomes ill and dies much to the dismay of the other.  The surviving partner mourns (healthily, we hope) and carries on the legacy and hopes of the deceased.  And so it is with you, my friend, as I watch you in your hospice while you gently and quietly fade away.  It pains me to see you go, but isn’t this what resurrection requires after all?  That one go to the tomb so that a new beginning may be had?

We have had a long history, yours extending back much farther than my own.  Your beginnings were noble and the intentions of those who shouldered you were admirable.  As with most people, though, you sought power and prestige and your goodness began to be covered with the dust of fallen empires and the shards of broken dreams.  Your lust for greatness grew deeper than your desire to help the least of these and your heart became dark and emotionless.  You defended dogma over the rights of the community and your raison d’etre became clouded.  Now I watch you as you lie there, mostly motionless, occasionally twitching in your memories of days when goodness and mercy were your quest.  Irrelevance has overtaken you and your monitor sings with only the faintest of a pulse.

Some will judge you harshly and will say that you did more harm than good.  But I will remember your beginnings when your hands and feet moved to feed the hungry and give drink to those who thirsted.  I will recall a time when your words were spoken in the poetic beauty of a liturgy that freed the oppressed from the shackles of injustice.  I will remember you well, oh friend, and I will work with those whom you have hurt and those whom you have healed – not to resuscitate you, but to resurrect you.  Because I still have faith in the ideals upon which you were born so many years ago and in the godly prophet who summoned you from the hearts of humans.  Your ways may be of a past long since faded into the twilight, but rest assured your successor will do even greater things for your brothers and sisters – those who shunned you and those who loved you.

Your time is coming to an end, but I can still see the glimmer of hope in your eyes.  You can no longer speak, but I feel you going quietly into the night as I hold your hand in mine.  Fear not the vastness of the unknown for there are greater things to come.  We will hope together in this moment.

Requiescat in pace, ecclesia.

Farewell . . . . church.  Rest in peace.

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6 Responses to “RIP, My Friend”

  1. jon shimabukuro Says:

    Say it isn’t so Padre! Are you throwing in the towel for the future of the church or just playing devils advocate? I do think we need to rexamine the how the church needs to carry God’s message out to the people. Values have shifted, the way people connect and communicate have changed but there is a need and a purpose for the church to continue. We just need to get the defibrillator paddles out and jump start our dear friend. I believe she doesn’t and isn’t ready to leave us just yet.

    • Thanks, Jon! I appreciate that you jumped in on this one. I would say the answer is . . . yes and yes 🙂 I am playing a little devil’s advocate and throwing in the towel a little as well. But, I have definitely not given up on the church. I think the “old way” of doing church is dying (as many studies have shown). Nine churches a day close their doors and folks are quitting church in droves. Having said all this, I still have 100% faith in the church to change the world and to be Jesus’s hands and feet in the community. That’s why I said that we will need a “resurrection” and not a “resuscitation.” Resuscitation would mean that we put the paddles on and bring the “old church” back to life. (Yes, it’s all a matter of semantics) Resurrection, on the other hand, would be to (much like Jesus’s resurrection) bring the church in to a new creation and new life that would reach both in impact and in spirit far beyond that which it did before. It would be a living, breathing church that truly is the embodiment of who Jesus was and is. I hope that makes sense! So, in sum, I’m saying it’s time to quit doing things the old way and to start doing something different for the sake of those who desperately need the church to be the church right now. I suspect that we’re saying the same thing 😉

  2. Scott Nowlan Says:

    Interesting.

    I have stood in these cathedrals. They inspire awe. I am not surprised they inspired spiritual energy. The church poisoned itself. It did become an overbearing old man in dementia that got in everyone’s business and focused less on spirituality.

    I personally also think the dying Conservative arm of the church gave less and less people a reason to stay focused. I might have stayed if every Pope was like the current, and all churches like Old St. Pat’s.

    I still love old cathedrals though. It is like a visit to the cemetery though.

    JWB

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • jon shimabukuro Says:

      Ditto to that Scott. Just visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on ND campus and it took my breath away. Fill that with more of what the new pope is saying and we have something.

  3. John Lovestrand Says:

    Just read B’s “RIP, My Friend”.

    Beautifully written, as always, and theo-poetic throughout. Great use of metaphor, especially from a Pastor, who I imagine has literally held the hand of a person as she continue on from this world to the next.

    For myself, I am excited about what I perceive to be a more progressive means to “do church”, one which (as Marcus Borg eloquently wrote) focuses on the core message of Jesus (to be compassionate) which naturally then lends itself to spiritual inclusiveness …

    Versus the too often distorted interpretations of hierarchical men (laden with rules) which eventually led to opposition and exclusion.

    But how gracious of B to remember it for its true beginnings, much like we do when laying a loved one to rest, awash in memories of the best that person had to offer.

    Similarly, metaphorically, B’s notion of a truly resurrected church, kindles the flame and inspires the spirit.

    Thx all. JL

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