The Sheep of Kephas

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Rules and Tools For Radical Pastors #2

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Background: In Rules and Tools for Radical Pastors #1, I presented Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals and Gordon E. Simmons’ four Rules for Radical Pastors. We noted that Simmons had adapted and down-scaled Alinsky’s rules to fit better in the parish environment.

In order to gain a better understanding of Simmons’ rules, I have added excerpts from his article that provide a simplified explanation of the rules. While you are reading the rules and the excerpts below, please note two things:

  • God is not mentioned even though Simmons is a Lutheran minister; and
  • Simmons’ asserts that Alinsky was “very intolerant about” delay.

RULE 1: Build an organization through individual meetings

Building and sustaining an organization requires a great deal of time meeting with people one-on-one. The reason for this is to discover where your leadership is and to develop relationships of trust so that you may call upon that leadership.

RULE 2: Build an organization by presenting a vision of where you are going and moving toward it.

Saul Alinsky said that people were to have the power, that their ideas and programs should come to the surface. But he also understood that the organizer had to capture the best of those ideas and present them as a vision so that people could move toward them. Alinsky wrote, “The organizer’s biggest job is to give people the feeling that they can do something”

RULE 3: Build an organization through leadership development.

Alinsky had a strong notion that leaders are made and not born. He believed that people’s leadership skills could be developed. He started working among the poor, people among whom some would say leadership skills are lacking. He didn’t let that deter him. Remember the “iron rule” –IAF has a principle called the “iron rule” of organizing. It goes like this: “Never do for others what they can do for themselves.”

RULE 4: Teaching happens best through an action-reflection model.

The fourth principle is that teaching happens best through an action-reflection model. Alinsky felt strongly that the best model of education is not one of training people and then sending them out to do their work. Rather, the best model involves sending people out to do their work and then helping them to learn about what they are doing.
Alinsky was very intolerant about taking a long time to get things started. He hit the ground running. Get going. Then do your learning through reflection upon what has happened.
Analysis & Commentary
Tool #1 – The Pastoral Council: Until recently, the parishioners of St. Peter Church were in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in thinking:

2179 “A parish is a definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church; the pastoral care of the parish is entrusted to a pastor as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop.”115 It is the place where all the faithful can be gathered together for the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration; it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love:

You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, the prayers of the priests.116

Now, however, many in the parish are being introduced to new perspectives of what type of environment can be developed within a parish. For example, the minutes of the first meeting of the Parish Pastoral Council appear to demonstrate a tendency to move away from the central theme of the CCC definition of a parish focused on “the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist” and move more towards the final thought of item 2179 “it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.”

Is it bad to do good works? Absolutely not. Is it bad to practice brotherly love? No way. I would submit, however, that losing focus on “the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist” would represent a fundamental change in the environment and spiritual cohesion of our parish.

Why do I raise the topic of a movement towards change in our parish environment. Because the change is being introduced under the cover of the Pastoral Council – an entity that did not exist at St. Peter’s until our Pastor established it. We did not select the members nor do we have a say in how it is constituted.

The St. Peter Pastoral Council is not a true representative body. It is an instrument established by our Pastor to serve our Pastor – and apparently it is his prerogative to use it as he desires.

It is his tool. He can use it to build a parish in the spirit of CCC 2179 so that the sheep of St. Peter’s will have a Eucharist centered parish. Alternatively, he can use it to fashion a new environment in the style of Saul Alinsky or Gordon Simmons. I suppose we will know better how he will use his tool when we see the:

NEXT STEPS FOR PASTORAL COUNCIL

  • Develop a parish mission statement

As a final thought, the Pastoral Council (Tool #1) is the best tool to use to support the goals of Simmon’s RULE 2: Build an organization by presenting a vision of where you are going and moving toward it.

Yes, our parish will have a vision and it will be embodied in the parish mission statement and the Pastoral Council will be the means by which it all comes about. Alinsky wrote, “The organizer’s biggest job is to give people the feeling that they can do something”

Alinsky was very intolerant about taking a long time to get things started. He hit the ground running. Get going.

And how long did it take for our Pastor to establish a Pastoral Council? – He hit the ground running.

 

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