For those who remember his whimsical commentaries from last year our mate Pewter is back. He sent me through a pile of these short reflections he's penned over recent months. This is the most recent, written in the last week, and I'll see how I can fit the others into our schedule.
From the Pewside #7...
Many of the pewside folk at this time of the year face an audit. For some their performance appraisal is a dies irae that will end in tears; for others the audit rewards their efforts with guarantees of continuing employment and increased salary; for all it is a time to take a personal stock-taking of themselves and their work as seen by them and the independent audit team.
No such formal audit will occur for our parish and our parish leaders, although a process of sorts exists within informal boundaries. Recently we counted heads at Sunday Mass, as an indication of how our parish is responding to exhortations to greater holiness. In line with the Catholic default position of not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing, the final count will be kept secret even from those doing the counting, especially if the number of Mass-goers is decreasing and would reflect badly on parish leaders. Anecdotally there are tales of inflated numbers being sent to head office as proof that conservative, or liberal, Church policies result in greater attendance at Mass. Lies, more lies, and damned statistics are not unique to the secular world.
Performance indicators that are more tangible and more readily measured are part of the less informal process of a parish audit. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, hospital visits, Masses celebrated, meetings held, homilies given, moneys raised and spent, can all be recorded as useful indicators that the parish and leaders are performing well. None of this information will be communicated to the pewside folk, nor perhaps should it be, although an inclusive approach to information sharing is a well-known means of creating ownership of aims and a common purpose in implementing them. Mission statements used to be in vogue but little is heard of them recently, let alone if they are being realised, and certainly nothing is stated about how to measure their effectiveness.
Intangible indicators are more difficult to measure and best left perhaps to the work of the Holy Spirit. Is our parish 'holier' now than it was two years ago? Apart from God, who knows? Subjective impressions might show the parish is less spiritual, but again that is almost impossible to measure, although in the past significant visitors have stated spirituality to be a significant feature, measured by personal prayer, home discussion groups, weekday Mass, visits to the Blessed sacrament, as well as by the more traditional means of Sunday Mass and reception of the Sacraments.
This pewside person recognises and admires the energetic leadership of our Parish Priest, but would be one who thinks there has been some decline in 'spirituality' without, of course, being able to offer tangible indicators to justify that belief. Talking is not teaching; being spoken to about God does not necessarily foster a relationship with God; words from the pulpit do not substitute for prayer from the pews, although a chicken and egg analogy may operate here. Which comes first, the words or the relationship?
Meanwhile we prepare here and now for that Great Audit which we all must one day face.
What are your thoughts on this commentary by Pewter?