There are a number of folks who for any number of reasons feel unwelcome or not accepted at their local parish. These reasons include, but are not limited to, being in an invalid marriage, being in a LGBT relationship, disagreeing with the public church position on any number of topics, being told by a pastor or member of the parish or diocesan staff specifically not to come back until or unless they change their relationship status or their viewpoint on whatever. I have been a pastor and am painfully aware of how often I have been misquoted, misunderstood, or just plain lied about. We are all humans, and it seems our human frailties are both crosses and gifts. I do not intend to pass judgment on anyone. I do intend to share some thoughts.
No one of us needs to feel cut off from the People of God or Eucharist because of human frailty, ours or someone else’s. There are many folks who feel this way and many of them throughout the world have started to band together with other folks who feel, for lack of a better term, ‘disenfranchised’, to form their own local branch of “People of God”, their own communities. These are grouped together under the term Intentional Eucharistic Communities. They take many forms, each of which is determined by the particular group. Many folks seems to find in these groups the presence and support of Jesus that they can not find in their parishes. Again, I am not interested in finding fault with or blaming anyone. I am dealing with what is. And what is, is people are hurting.
Folks in these communities take hope and strength from Jesus words, “Whenever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them”. When Jesus said this, he ida not say anything about the permission of the local bishop or pastor, approved places, book, wording, or clothes. He just said, “gathered together in my name”. Such an idea will certainly raise the hackles of any who believe that following the strict letter of church law or of any utterance of leadership is the only way to heaven. But folks who feel unwelcome already feel tossed aside. Lets help them deal with their reality, accept them where they are on their journey, and not judge them. As the song says, “All God’s creatures got a place in the choir”. Not everybody is a tenor.
Each of these communities forms itself. Many of them involve some form of “Telling the Story and Breaking the Bread”, which leads to apostolic activity of some sort. This is what the ideal catholic church is like, only without all the fancy clothes. Because of how the folks feel they have been treated by the established church, they try never to treat each other or anybody as they feel they have been treated. Often when church “leadership” finds out about them, the usual round of threats and anathemas begins, but since the folks already feel apart from the church, these don’t matter anymore. Who is to say these folks are not of the Holy Spirit?
Years back I learned that parents who were having trouble with their teens, many of whom had run away and were on the street, were very good with other parents’ teens, and so we began a process of dealing with runaways. Along these same lines today, it seems that people in pain are good in helping others in pain. And so they form communities, gather together in Jesus’ name, and with him help each other. And, having experienced Jesus helping them, they ask and respond to his guidance in reaching out to others. Sound like a Eucharistic Community in the character of the Emmaus Story where the disciples “recognized him in the breaking of the bread”.
There are a number of these communities already in existence in the US. Folks who feel excluded might find one of these or give some thought to getting together themselves and forming their own.
The important thing is that any of us who in any way are involved in any part of these questions have a strong prayer life and respond to whomever whatever is in our life from our prayer life. There are tremendous energies involved in all sides of every question here. I, for one, believe the Holy Spirit is very much involved, and giving each of us the opportunity to follow Her lead wherever She takes us.
A good link to start with is Intentional Eucharistic Communities main.php
Just sayin . . .
7 December 2012