Does Kansas City Need Another Catholic Church? 3
Everybody needs to know that Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church is really small. Even by Episcopalian standards, where Sunday attendance in an average parish has declined to 65, we are very small. On a good Sunday we have about half that many. If we are content to join the slow decline of Episcopalian, Anglican, mainline Protestant and Evangelical parishes (last one to leave, please turn out the light) then no, Kansas City does not need us. If our goal is to preserve a liturgy as a museum piece and to serve the religious sentiments of club members, then no, Kansas City does not need us for that, either.
A few weeks ago I asked one of our original members, Jodeen, how she came up with the suggestion of Our Lady of Hope for our name. She told me, “I didn’t know anything about the name. I believe it was a direct inspiration from God.” Our name calls us to be people of hope. This whole Christian enterprise started with one person. Luke does not record that anyone was with Mary when Gabriel visited her. And from the one person who dared to believe that the hopes of her people would be fulfilled, everything began. One is not none, and small is not nothing.
Back when I was working in the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri with my good friend, Fr. Jim Carlyle, our jobs were to start or restart parishes. We knew that new parishes have a much better chance of growing than old ones, because when everyone is new, all start from the same place. There are no established power structures that newcomers have to break into and people can start belonging right away. We both had small groups to start with, but our goal was to open new churches with 200 in attendance on our first Sunday. We used telemarketing, mailings, and personal invitations. He worked to launch St. Anne’s Episcopal in Lee’s Summit, and I worked to re-launch St. Michael’s Episcopal in Independence. Twenty years ago, we both worked to remove perceived “barriers.” That meant making the liturgy user-friendly, the music contemporary, denominational identification invisible, and to a certain extent, the faith non-challenging.
Things have changed a lot in twenty years. Our Lady of Hope is no more than what we used to call a “core group.” We don’t have any plans to do any telemarketing. If anything, Our Lady of Hope is doing a slow launch. I don’t have the luxury of devoting myself to this project full time, and we don’t have the financial resources that the Episcopal diocese devoted to our projects. But we have something that is much more important – the Catholic faith, the inexorable work of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of Mary and of all the saints.
Our Lady of Hope has a potential that our previous work in the Episcopal diocese never had. And we have a potential that no other Catholic parish can match. The Holy Spirit is our telemarketing campaign. And the Holy Spirit is calling evangelicals into the Catholic Church. Can you imagine what a Catholic parish would be like if it fully embraced and empowered their evangelical skills and zeal instead of keeping them at arm’s length? The Holy Spirit is calling Anglicans, Episcopalians and Methodists who love their tradition, but even more love Christ and his call to be one in him as he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is calling Catholics who want to celebrate the liturgy in the beauty of holiness, and who are eager to share the depth of their faith with others.
Are you being called? Do you know others who may be called? Do you hope to be part of a Catholic parish like this? Are you willing to give of yourself, your time, your energy, and your faith, and to be a person of hope?
More to come!