WHAT IS A MESSAGE SERIES?
One summer about three years ago I gathered together with my associate pastor and two deacons at a cottage in Grand Bend for a few days to reflect on how we could be more relevant, effective and meaningful in our preaching. In preparation for these days I invited them to read a book and consider a new way to preach in our parish.
Instead of simply producing a preaching schedule that rotated us from week to week, I asked them to consider preaching in a series that spanned a number of weeks and covered a general theme flowing from the Sunday scripture readings. We would derive a common theme from the Sunday readings and from what is taking place in the faith community and the world.
In addition to creating a common overarching theme for the homily series, we would actually work together and formulate the key points for each week before even assigning the preacher for particular weekends.
WHAT DID WE DISCOVER?
By preaching in a message series format (1) we realized that working together made for better homilies, (2) we did not feel pressured to pack everything into one homily which would be better expressed and shared over multiple weekends and (3) instead of wondering what we were going to say when our weekend came up (This happened for me on Saturday mornings)—we actually enjoyed preaching even more! Preaching in a message series made it better for the parishioners but what it didn’t do is make the homilies shorter—sorry!!
THE “COMEBACK” SERIES
This first message series for me here in Chatham will span three weekends (September 18-19 at St. Joseph & St. Ursula, September 25-26 at Blessed Sacrament & St. Agnes and October 9-10 at St. Joseph & St. Ursula). I will also include a combined homily at Our Lady of Victory on the weekend of October 2-3.
Obviously with five churches not everyone will be able to hear the series at the same time but each of the homilies will be accessible via the family website, Facebook and Twitter.
WHAT IS A “COMEBACK”?
All of us love amazing comebacks in our lives. We are moved to the core when we see people who have endured suffering, loss or defeat who comeback with strength, grace and love. We also experience comeback moments in movies, books and sports.
Comebacks inspire us to carry on, to move forward and to overcome against all odds. Comebacks are moments of recovery, revival and renewal. It is never easy to comeback. It often means we need to change, adapt and forge new pathways to our goal. We always become stronger, wiser and better in a true comeback. The world, the Church and our family of parishes are in need of a comeback today.
WE ALL FACE CHALLENGES
All of us have had to endure many different challenges recently. There are global, political, social, economic, and personal struggles that have overwhelmed us in various ways. These storms have disrupted our lives and forced us to re-evaluate who and what is important to us.
Even our faith has had to endure many different struggles that can cause us to question what we truly believe. As a family of parishes, we are facing storms that may seem to be too overwhelming to overcome.
Our faith has been greatly challenged due to the lockdowns, limited access to Mass and the sacraments, no social gatherings and limited ministries and outreach for such a prolonged period of time. Some have slowly drifted away, found alternatives while others have become isolated and alone.
(2) Indian Residential School System
All of us have been horrified at the discovery of so many unmarked graves near Indian Residential Schools and the role the Catholic Church played in a system which attempted to eliminate all aspects of Indigenous culture.
(3) Clergy Sexual Abuse
The sad and painful reality of so many victims and survivors who suffered and the attempted cover up by Church officials has caused so much pain, sadness and anger.
(4) Declining Church Attendance
We are also facing declining numbers of people attending Mass, practicing their faith and being involved in the Church.
(5) The World is All About “ME”
Our society is consumed with greed, selfishness and competition that causes division between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.
We could probably list many more but these are some of the most difficult storms at the moment.
HOW CAN WE “COMEBACK”?
This message series is all about how together, as a family of parishes, we respond to the challenges and storms in our world today. We really can “comeback” shining as a light of hope by forging new pathways to stay connected and grow in faith, rebuilding relationships, seeking truth and reconciliation and by forming disciples who seek to serve all in humility and love.
Our “comeback” beckons us to truly become Christ for one another offering mercy, love, light, peace, compassion and life. We have a chance to experience recovery, renewal and revival. The challenge is to figure out how best to change, adapt and respond as we move forward together.