This is Part 6 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.

Some words are just freaky looking. Like "onomatopoeia" or "kakorrhaphiophobic." See? Freaky! (Yes, both of these are actual English words.) Theology has its own share of "freaky words" too. Recently we saw the word "kerygma" which is a fancy way of referring to the basic message of the Gospel: God's love Redeems us from sin so that through the Advent of Christ all who Confess his name may receive Eternal life (G.R.A.C.E.).

But today I want to share with you another 'freaky' theological word: pneumatological.

Did you know that the Church is sometimes called "Peter's Barque"? A barque is a boat, which is one of the most ancient images of the Church. The Church is a boat carrying the people of God over the waters of time to our eternal home. Peter, the Pope, is the captain of that boat. But, like a boat moved by winds in its sails, this boat is moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even Jesus, throughout His earthly life, was accompanied by the Holy Spirit. So too, the Church, the Body of Christ, must be accompanied by the Holy Spirit to fulfill its mission.

What pneumatological means is that a parish must also be "filled with the Holy Spirit." You see, the Body of Christ, the Church, is a living body animated by the life of the Holy Spirit dwelling within it. The Greek word "pneuma" is the word for "breath." When God breathed life into Adam he put his "pneuma," His Spirit, in him. So too, when we were baptized and confirmed the Spirit of God came to dwell in us as in a temple. God breathed His pneuma, His Spirit, into each of us.

An ideal parish, therefore, is one that is filled with the Spirit. But what does this practically mean?

  • It means that we recognize a parish is a living body, filled with the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9), not as a 'business' or an 'institution.' In other words, a parish is a family in the Spirit.

  • It means that a parish regularly prays to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

  • It means that parishioners seek "spiritual gifts" (1 Cor 12:1) to be "equipped for the work of ministry" (Eph 4:12), sharing their gifts in love of God and Neighbor.

  • It means that parishioners seek to "be led by the Spirt of God" so that we might be called "children of God" (Rom 8:14) so that we can "cry out 'Abba, Father'" (8:15).

An ideal parish is one that, like a boat's sails, is "filled with the Holy Spirit." Or, if you want to use the freaky word, pneumatological.

Father Jarrod Lies, Pastor