When I talk about adult faith formation going “mobile,” I’m not talking about anything involving mobile phones! Rather, I’m talking about getting adult faith formation “off campus,” so to speak, and taking it on the road, namely to people’s homes. Pope Francis is encouraging us as a Church to “go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 20) I suggest that the first step toward reaching out to the peripheries is to move some of our offerings off-campus. We need to show that God is “mobile” and can be encountered in places other than church buildings. We need to identify ways of bringing God’s grace out of the fortresses of our buildings and into ordinary places where ordinary people can encounter the Divine presence and recognize that it was there all along. This is what St. Ignatius of Loyola intended when he talked about helping people to find God in all things.
I propose that we find new ways to bring the sacred into people’s homes. Parishes can…
- contact families and invite them to host an adult faith gathering. This might be, for example, a viewing and discussion of an episode of Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism (Word on Fire) or a segment of Meaningful Conversations About Prayer (Loyola Press). Asking for home hosts could be an especially effective evangelization strategy to make a connection with a new family in the parish or neighborhood since they are being asked to provide hospitality to neighbors. Most people would be honored to be asked and to host such a gathering and many people who might not come to a parish hall for such a gathering would consider going to a neighbor’s home;
- arrange for Bible study groups to take place in people’s homes using Six Weeks with the Bible;
- arrange to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in different people’s homes on various days and at various times of the day;
- combine some of the above with light refreshments including wine and cheese in order to extend hospitality to all who gather.
One of the critical lessons of the Jewish people’s wandering in the desert was their realization that their God was mobile. Previously, it had been thought that gods were local and stationary. When traveling, people would bring with them some kind of relic in hopes of extending their god’s reach. When the Jewish people wandered the desert for 40 years, they believed that God’s very presence traveled with them wherever they went. It should come as no surprise, then, that God objected when David sought to build a temple, saying, “I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.” (2 Samuel 7:5–6). In many ways, we have once again relegated God to a geographic space, denying his mobility and creating the notion that in order to encounter and experience intimacy with God, one needs to spend more time on the parish campus. If we are truly going to become a Church on the move, then we need to get moving—off campus and into people’s lives to help them discover the God that is already there.
No doubt, this is why the Mass ends with the word, “Go!” We’re supposed to be on the move!
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“Spending more time in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than spending more time in a garage makes you a car.” (Anonymous)