Thursday, August 25, 2011
The Listening Church
Pastors and members of the Church have to listen to people, indeed, as many people as possible but "listening" is never and end end in itself. We should never be satisfied with listening simply so we can respond with that oft heard phrase of contemporary counsellors, "I hear your pain". Being listened to without a response only adds to frustration. Undergoing non-directive counselling might give a certain immediate satisfaction as one hears oneself pouring out one's grief but ultimately it really leads to deeper hurt, when one realises nothing has changed and the listener can do nothing, and actually hasn't heard a word.
The Church is a "teaching" Church, that is what it has to offer the world. "Go out to the whole world and teach all nations". It teaches the world because it listens intensely to God. It has something to say to individuals because its Pastors have first heard what God has to say.
Another phrase that used to be used without much thought was "meeting people where they are at", again it is important being with people but Christ having both met then and listened, then teaches and demands they leave where they are "at" to follow him.
The Church is a "hospital for the sick" and a "school for sinners", it is not a hospice for the dying or an institution for the ignorant. It is a place where the sick are brought to health and a school where the ignorant are taught wisdom. It is concerned with metamorphosis, transfiguration, change.
I haven't spoken about the Soho "Gay" Masses per se but it strikes me The Oratory or Westminster Cathedral seem to attract a fair number of relatively "camp" men, few with children can afford central London, the difference between the Warwick Street Masses and the Oratory or the Cathedral is that at Warwick Street the church has given up teaching and merely listens.
Listening to the hunger rumbles of the starving is not charitable, especially when one has food. I can understand maybe one doesn't give someone who is dying of starvation heady wine and rich food, maybe one begins with watery gruel and thinly cut bread, I presume in charity, I pray, that is what Archbishop Nichols and his predecessor intended when the present Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, negotiated the return of the Warwick Street "community" from the Anglican church were Catholic priests offering Mass for them to their present home.
It raises the question, not so much about "Gay" Masses but about dissent in general: how far should it be tolerated? How much listening should take place before the bishops and priest say, "now we will teach".
Posted by Fr Ray Blake