(RNS) At a church workshop last week, I set aside my carefully planned teaching and just let people talk.
It became clear that everyone had an old story they needed to tell. Until it was heard, no one in the room could or would move on to thinking about the future. And even when it was heard, half of them would keep cycling back to the old story.
When she knew she was dying, my grandmother took me to see the cornerstone of a small brick church in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. I didn’t recognize the sign outside. It was a Baptist church, I think. It was pretty rundown, but still in better shape than the neighborhood. Overgrown vacant lots were everywhere; it was like visiting an abandoned church in the jungle.
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a French Catholic, says that if you don’t show up early for mass at his parish in Paris, you might have to sit on folding chairs in a spillover space or even sit on the floor. There’s nothing unusual about his parish priest, although he does have Pope Francis’s spirit of generosity. Gobry’s parish is like other urban areas in France. Despite the country’s reputation for secularism, Gobry thinks the French church may be on the verge of a time of renewal (The Week, January 15).