I feel extremely guilty about it.
I could offer ALL KINDS of excuses but when it comes right down to it, I could have handled it in a more constructive manner.
Let me just say it was drawing a lot of desperate people from near and far; men, women, old(er), young(er), Catholic, non-Catholic, to come together a pray, study, and (toward the end) have a good time together once a month.
Unfortunately, it was in the rectory, I am at the old(er) end of the scale, it was always on a work night, and I was always having to kick people out so I could get to bed. “No, seriously, you people have to leave now.”
The reason I bring this up is that I was having a discussion with a newly ordained recently and we were debating what works and what does not work when it comes to forming community and getting people involved at the parish. Clearly, our model of programs, initiatives and posters no longer work well. Something new is needed as we rebuild Catholic culture in the United States.
Here is something that doesn’t work (that surprised me) and something that did work (that surprised me.)
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
Meetings on the parish grounds that featured Bible studies or theological talks. We peppered them up, gave them snappy titles, made great posters and turned it into a social/coffee house to try to up the attendance. The same 30 people turned out for all of them. Great people. But why were we failing to attract more?
Theology on Tap has been a wonderful success thus far. Hundreds of people have been through the door over the past year. (We are coming up on our 1 year anniversary.) Theology on the Rocks has almost been too much of a success. We have had angry people because the venues have been so crowded. At each of these there has been a solid theological talk, questions and answers, and, of course, food, drink and community.
The group with which I opened this article was a study of the writing of a turn of the last century Catholic writer. Who would come to such a thing besides a few nerds like me? But they did.
So . . . what is the THING and how can it be applied to other programs that are withering on the vine? What are the ingredients? Do we need to have PSR classes at Taco Bell? What would make you come out for a Bible study?