Decisions, Directions and the Disciple Maker Index – Encounter With Christ Through The Liturgy
Over the past several weeks, I have been informing the Parish of St. Monica about a number of important decisions and to provide a roadmap for the parish for the next few years. Last week I presented three significant areas on which the Lord seems to be calling the Parish of St. Monica to focus by our youth, our women, our men and couples.
Looking around the country, we see that dynamic parishes are noted for a “Sunday experience” that touches hearts and brings people to an ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST THROUGH THE LITURGY. That is the topic for this week.
The quality and sophistication of Mass at St. Monica provides an extremely fine, professional, quality experience. Nevertheless, participation and Sunday collections have steadily declined for the past 5 years. In addition, questions within the “Disciple Maker Index” spiritual/pastoral questionnaire dealing with liturgy also showed that this was an area for improvement. We cannot ignore this any longer – the Lord is telling us something. Our liturgy has to develop and the “experience” has to focus on touching the hearts of the people in the pews. How do we do this?
Moving liturgies have three components:
- Message (Homilies)
- Music (Hymns)
- Ministers (Hospitality)
To begin, in January I will be convening a “Liturgy Committee” which I will personally chair. Since the liturgy is the most important thing we do at St. Monica I need to be at the helm to read the “signs of the times” and make the necessary decisions to ensure that the Holy Spirit is moving in the lives of our people through the liturgy.
Second, liturgical studies have shown that the most important component of an impactful liturgy seems to be “the message” or the homilies. Our score in the Disciple Maker Index survey, frankly, was mediocre. So what goes into good preaching? Good homilies have five characteristics. They have to be:
- Audible – Can you actually hear and understand the words being spoken?
- Passionate – Is the homily based on prayer and delivered with conviction and emotion?
- Organized – Are the points in the homily clearly connected in a way that people can logically follow?
- Understandable – Does the homilist use words that people can grasp and follow both theologically and linguistically.
- Relevant – Does the homily connect to the lives of the people in the pews with actions that they can implement that week.
I plan to measure these homily components, along with the other components of engaging liturgy (hospitality and hymnody/music) with the use of a type of “kiosk” that we set up in the church lobby last week. Each week, we will be able to offer people, who attend St. Monica liturgies, an opportunity to comment – quickly and easily – on one aspect of the liturgy.
Since leadership starts at the top, we will start with me and my preaching. For example, a question might be, “An ‘organized homily’ should have clearly connected points that you can logically follow. Was today’s homily ‘organized?’”
People would be offered four choices:
1 – Extremely Organized 2 – Yes 3 – Not Really 4 – Definitely Not
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Over the course of several months, this will enable us to determine if we are preaching the kind of homilies that are touching people’s hearts. In addition, the Liturgy Committee will also inquire into the areas of Music (Hymns) and Ministers (Hospitality). The goals will be:
- Look at what categories/questions in the Disciple Maker Index deal with Message (Homilies), Music (Hymns) and Ministers (Hospitality).
- Record what the current St. Monica scores in those questions/categories were.
- In two years – Move the scores in those categories and questions to be equal to – or better than – the scores from parishes similar to St. Monica (medium-sized, suburban parishes) as well as the average score of all parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the average score of all parishes nationwide.
So here I’ve introduced what we are going to do to help people ENCOUNTER CHRIST THROUGH THE LITURGY. Next week we will look at how we might assist people to ENCOUNTER CHRIST THROUGH SCRIPTURE. The following week, we will consider how we might help people ENCOUNTER CHRIST THROUGH SERVICE TO OTHERS which includes serving the poor/needy as well as our inactive and less activeCatholic brothers and sisters.