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Paradosis from the GLS #2

Managing Continuity and Change

Ever hear of AR Bernard?  I hadn’t before the Global Leadership Summit, but then that’s one of the beauties of this event for me:  I get introduced to thought leaders from other Christian churches, outside the Catholic sandbox.  So I “met” AR Bernard at this year’s GLS.  His website describes him as author, teacher and mentor with a passion for being a thought leader at the intersection of faith and culture.[i]  I wonder if he’s met Bishop Barron, another influencer working in this same intersection?

I have a ton of notes from Bernard’s presentation about building bridges and re-building violated trust, and about conversion being grounded in Jesus Christ, not the institutional church.  But what I want to share with you today are these four statements with which he wound up this wide-ranging, challenging presentation:

Managing continuity and change is the leadership challenge all must face.  If you continue what should be changed you become irrelevant.  If you change what you should hold firm you lose your identity.  Figuring this out is the work of leaders.

Catholics who follow some of the confusion, conflict and chaos within our Church today will recognize this struggle at work among our episcopal leaders, our pastors and our lay ecclesial ministers:

  • Should Vatican II be seen as continuous, disruptive or some combination thereof? For what it’s worth, we really struggle if we land on the “combination” response, because it means parsing the two and being able to let go of continuity when disruption is clear, and holding on to continuity when the disruptors want to toss it all.  Leaders need PUC! 
  • Is Pope Francis continuing the work of Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI? If so, in what areas?  Is he continuing the work of the early Church, pulling into the present some ideas and practices that got lost for some years?  Is he changing some things that need to be changed?  Identity and relevance are important…and leaders have to grapple with both. PUC up!
  • What is Eucharistic coherence[ii] and where does it fall in this dichotomy of continuity and/or change? How will this affect our approach to Holy Communion as a parish?  As individuals? 
  • How do we think about Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis Custodes that reverses the provisions for the use of the traditional Latin Mass made possible by Pope Benedict XVI in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum? Is this an act of continuity or of change?

OK…that’s a little “out there” for some of you reading this.  You may be wondering how this might affect you as you lead in your parish.  Here are some issues my parish leadership are grappling with that fall into this category:

  1. Adjustments to the liturgy as a result of Covid19, and now the Delta variant. What gets continued?  Brought back?  Re-instituted?  Based on what?  How are these decisions affecting people returning to Mass, staying away, or going back home?  What are the implications of these decisions on the use of taped or live stream Masses?
  2. Embracing technology fully in children’s faith formation. Is it necessary?  Can we continue what we were doing before the pandemic in our gathered children’s formation?  Why not?  What needs to change around technology and why?  What happens if we do not change?
  3. Covid19 disrupted life as usual. Do we return to what was as soon as we can?  How do we assess its effectiveness outside of just “comfort?”  What will it take to change how we are a parish in light of this?  Who will help?  Push back?

Managing continuity and change is the leadership challenge all must face. If you continue what should be changed you become irrelevant.  If you change what you should hold firm you lose your identity.  Figuring this out is the work of leaders.

So leaders…this is your territory…our territory.  I think we all need to grow our capacity for PUC[iii] in light of this!

___________________________________
[i] https://www.arbernard.com/
[ii] For one look at this question see Timothy O’Malley’s article “What’s at Stake in the Debates Swirling Around Eucharistic Coherence?”  Church Life Journal.  June 29, 2021 https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/what-is-at-stake-in-eucharistic-coherence/  Accessed 8-8-2021
[iii] See the first blog in this series.  PUC stands for Pain, Uncertainty and Chaos.

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