Updated: Feb 18, 2020
In my earlier post “Connoisseurs of Churches” I quoted C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. In the passage I quoted, Screwtape (the mentor demon) warned his protegé against the dangers of his patient becoming loyal to the parish church. Lewis spoke of the “unity of place and not of likings” and Screwtape favored the latter and not the former for promoting the ill spiritual health of human patients. Lewis saw spiritual value in the parish model.
Value in the Parish Model?
I made an off-handed comment in that post about not being sure we’ve ever really reaped the benefit of a parish model in the United States. Certain traditions, I’m sure, have been more successful than others in that regard. But even the Catholic church, which has attempted to keep the parish model, has found difficulties in doing so (if I’m not mistaken). I’m sure there are many factors in American life that mitigate against the parish system. I’m also sure there are many factors in the American church scene that make it impractical and even undesirable for many churches.
Parish Model in the PCA
All that being said, I appreciated reading this article: “Redefining the Parish Model: An Old Concept Finds Revival Within the PCA” (HT: Stu Kerns–my former pastor in Lincoln, NE). The gist of the article is that there are at least some pastors in my denomination that are deliberately pursuing a parish model of ministry. The article is worth reading just to learn the approaches these pastors are taking in that regard. While it may be too soon to know how it will pan out in the long run, I think there is much to commend it.
The church I serve, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Castle Rock favors a similar approach. We believe place is important. Scripture teaches that God blesses His people to make us a blessing to people around us (Genesis 12:1-3). With that in mind we want to bless our community. That desire does shape the way we as a church make decisions about ministry. One of our elders and his wife even recently moved from Highlands Ranch (just North of Castle Rock) to Castle Rock. Living in the same community as their church was their primary motivation. They believe they will serve more effectively by living in Castle Rock.
Once again, I’m very interested in what you think about a parish model for ministry. How might this approach effect relationships in the church? How might it effect the church’s impact on the community? Have you observed the parish model in action? What commends it? What are its weaknesses or challenges? What do you find compelling about it? What do you find off-putting?