By: Fr. John Jasica
“CHRISTENDOM” IS DEAD – BUT CHRISTIANITY IS NOT
Last weekend I wrote an article for the bulletin (family website—press the IGNITE link on the home page) describing the overall mission of the Church and how our family of parishes must adapt and change not simply to survive but in order to thrive and grow in a very different world. In order to fulfill the mission of spreading the Good News, we as the Church must find dynamic ways to dialogue in a very secular society that no longer accepts Christian values.
The era of Christendom is over but our Catholic Christian faith is not. It is a matter of changing strategies that are effective and engaging in a very different post-Christian world. The mission is still the same but the methods we use have to be different since the circumstances have dramatically changed.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT “CHRISTENDOM” IS DEAD?
Brett Powell, who is the Archbishop’s Delegate of Development and Ministries for the Archdiocese of Vancouver says, “A Christendom mode makes sense when the imaginative vision of society is informed and governed by Christian values, such as decades ago when Sunday shopping laws were in effect on the Lord’s day.” (B.C. Catholic—May 18, 2021).
We have seen over the years a decline of a visible and supported Catholic presence in society. Even in our own diocese we have seen the decline of Catholic hospitals, religious communities and Catholic social services. In the past, being a Christian and a Catholic in society had a status and influence that simply doesn’t exist anymore.
In his article, Brett Powell reiterates the significant role that the Church has had in the past—“Within a Christendom state, the Church gains prominence through the proliferation of Catholic institutions, buildings, and social enterprises. New members are attracted by the Church’s temporal resources. Yet hubris can set in when society favours the faith.” (B.C. Catholic—May 18, 2021).
SHIFTING TO AN “APOSTOLIC MODE”
So what does this all mean? Is everything we have done to share the Gospel lost? Not at all!! We are now in a new era which requires a massive shift in structures, systems and approach so that we can fulfill the mission of proclaiming the Good News. We no longer have a strong influence in our modern culture—in fact, the world is hostile to the message of the Gospel. We must change modes—we must embrace the ministry and evangelization of the first apostles. We need to re-evangelize the world—in a new and different way.
Brett Powell describes the Apostolic mode of Church in another article by saying, “The Church embraces Apostolic mission when society’s imaginative vision is hostile to Christian values. In this environment, the Church herself and her individual members can be at odds with the prevailing culture. This is not something the Church celebrates, but it is important to clearly recognize it.” (B.C. Catholic—May 11, 2021)
SHIFTING GEARS TO THRIVE AND GROW
(1) ADMIT THE REALITY
It is clear for us as a family of parishes and the Diocese of London that “Christendom” is over. I think we need to accept the fact that our modern culture has moved on and rejected Christian values and the Church. Yet I think many Catholics lament and are stuck in the days when churches were full, programs were well attended and abundant and we were building churches—not closing them. The unfortunate reality is that those days are over. We need to find a different way to be relevant and influential in our world today. This requires change.
(2) UNDERSTAND “APOSTOLIC MODE” OF MISSION
Brett Powell describes being an apostle in this new era: “In Apostolic mode, being Christian requires purity of intention and wholehearted commitment to Christ and his Church. In the absence of societal perks for membership, it is more costly to be Christian. Many are tempted to turn away from faith out of fear of persecution or in a desire to climb social, political, and corporate ladders.” (B.C. Catholic—May 11, 2021) There is no question that the work ahead to share the Gospel will be harder and require more and more dedicated people who are in love with Christ!
(3) PRAY, DISCERN, ACT—A NEW APPROACH
Over the next number of weeks, we as a family of parishes will pray, discern and then act, developing a new way to engage our world with the life-giving Good News of Jesus Christ! This will involve great sacrifices as we shift from a “Christendom” mode to an “Apostolic” mode of Church. Without this shift we will simply manage decline and over a short time drift into obscurity. This doesn’t need to happen. I have great hope for us to thrive, grow and share in the city of Chatham if we all work together.
MORE TO COME IN THE COMING WEEKS—STAY TUNED.