This is Part 12 of a fifteen-part series called “The Vision of an Ideal Parish” based on an article by Dr. Peter Williamson published in 2016. This series is intended to return us to our original Faith Forward Vision.

There are very few things that are as nice as good service. Like waiters or waitresses that provide the perfect balance of conversation and attention, neither too wordy nor too distant. Or a department store attendant who recognizes your confused look and gently offers help, takes you to the right spot, and makes sure your questions are answered. Or like a computer technician who recognizes the frustration in your voice, asks truly pertinent questions, and leads you through troubleshooting until your problem is resolved. In each of these situations the person serving has learned the art of attentive listening and the patience of active help.

What would happen if each parishioner at St. Francis saw themselves as a service attendant every Sunday?

What would happen if, when we came to Sunday Mass, we paid attention to the looks on people’s faces, the body language they expressed, or the needs they seemed to have? What would happen if we see one person juggling energetic children, we offer help or simply clear a pew for them? Or if we see another person approaching the door on crutches, we not only open the door, but we help them find a seat? Or still yet, if we see someone in the foyer of the Church looking confused, we summon up the courage to ask, “Can I help you find something.”

There really are very few things as nice as service; and the Faith Forward Vision that has been guiding us for the past several years was very clear: there are many people who have needs and the desire for help. The service goes far beyond Sunday Mass and includes those in financial hardship, single parents, the sick, the isolated, the homebound, the struggling, and the like. Many such persons simply asked, “Where can I find help?” Well… if not here at St. Francis, then where? If not by us…then by whom? After all our Parish Vision does say as stewards of God's love, we strive to share our gifts and talents for the service of God and all His people.

You see, your service is necessary for other people’s needs. The more generous, the more attentive, the more present you yourself are to those around you – to that degree the more will people experience amazing service at St. Francis. An ideal parish is one in which parishioners have learned the art of attentive listening and the patience to actively help “carry one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2). Unlike a waiter, a department store attendant, or a computer tech, a parish is not concerned about a profit or product enhancement. Rather, the service within a parish is solely concerned with the person and supplying for that person’s need.

In other words, an ideal parish is ministerial: where every member imitates Jesus who “came to serve not to be served” (Matt 20:28).

Father Jarrod Lies, Pastor