This is applicable to pastors, church members, and church shoppers and well, pretty much anyone who engages a church in any ways shape or form. At our most frustrated moments in community, the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. Eugene Peterson is awesome!
Parish glamorization is ecclesiastical pornography – taking photographs (skilfully airbrushed) or drawing pictures of congregations that are without spot or wrinkle, the shapes that a few parishes have for a few short years. These provocatively posed pictures are devoid of personal relationships. The pictures excite a lust for domination, for gratification, for involved and impersonal spirituality. My own image of the desirable congregation was shaped by just such pornography – tall steeple church with a cheesecake congregation. It alarms and dismays me that even though I long ago quit looking at magazines and lining the walls of my vocational imagination with pictures, I am still vulnerable to such seduction.
Parish repudiation takes place more subtly, often by imagining alternate structures. How many of us at the end of a long day dream of starting a retreat centre where only hungry and thirsty people come, or forming intentional communities where only highly motivated people are let in, or escaping into a seminary or university where complexities of sin and mysteries of grace are no longer vocational concerns, replaced by the still formidable but more manageable categories of ignorance and knowledge? All such fantasizing withdraws energy from the realities at hand and leaves them petulant.
Eugene Peterson, “Under the Unpredictable Plant,” pg 22 – 23.
How often do you find yourself dreaming of the perfect community? When this happens, how is it impacting your relationships within your current, and real, community?