The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 150: God ≠ Church
Hi friends. This week I’m pondering a question I raised in last week’s episode, which was about the first month-long meeting of the Synod and the 11-month period between that and the final meeting which will take place in October of 2024. I had said that the Church is kind of holding its breath wondering if and when change will take place – whether we will finally conquer clericalism and politicization of the clergy, whether we will finally expand the role of women and make the Church the welcoming place that it is meant to be for all people, including LBGTQ Catholics. Well, as we wonder about all of those things, among many others, and as some in the Church continue actively working against any kind of reform, I asked the question, “What are we supposed to do in the meantime?”
Like, really, what are we supposed to do in the meantime?
As our friends and family members and maybe even ourselves have left the regular practice of faith in light of the hypocrisy we see and the direction that the American Church is taking, as we search the horizon for the time in which the Church in its practice will finally embody and reflect the actual teachings of Jesus, this time can feel kind of deflating, don’t you think? Well, I’ll speak for myself. I feel deflated.
I’m no expert. I am just like a regular kind of person who loves Jesus and loves so many elements of my Catholic faith practice and who sees the dangerous road of clericalism and politicization that we are most definitely on in the American Catholic Church. One day in late 2020, I decided to start a podcast to try to help my friends to understand the season that we’re in, one of deconstruction and reconstruction as symbolized by the destruction and rebuilding of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. We’ve built quite a lot of bricks together in that time, one hundred fifty of them to be exact, one on top of the other, in the hopes of creating a healthy and safe place in which to own our faith for ourselves. And I hope that has been helpful and clarifying to you as you walk your own road.
Still, there can be a feeling of ‘what’s next’? If the capital C ‘Church’ does not change appreciably in this country, if the powers-that-be in fact double down on their politicization as we head into the presidential election of 2024, if we focus more on the ‘outside the cup’ practices of Catholicism and spend millions on a Eucharistic conference that will likely draw only like-minded conservative Catholics instead of spending that money on service and outreach to all God’s people, where does that leave us?
And more specifically, I guess, where does that leave me, as a practicing Catholic and some-time music minister who sees with clear eyes the challenges that we’re facing in the American Church today?
I walked through a Walgreens the other day to pick up some photos I had ordered and I was startled to see the lack of inventory on the shelves, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. Many of the items I previously shopped for at a place like that I now buy online, and I’m not alone. You probably do, too. But as I walked through the aisles, it was clear to me that the ‘corner drugstore’ as we know it is dying, or certainly in the death-throes. This is a place that needs reimagining in order to survive, and, friend, so is the church.
I have an older mass-going friend who says that the Church here has already died, but that most Catholics especially priests just don’t know it yet. And I have a younger non-mass going friend who says that relationship with God outside of the structures of a church authority is not only possible but is more authentic and fruitful than life in the pews. And I don’t know, maybe they’re both right. I have a print in my home from artist Scott Erickson that I’ll link for you in the show notes of a church building being sifted through an hourglass, becoming something new in its transformation. The piece is called ‘It Changes with Time,’ and the caption reads,
“If you love the form, you have everything to lose.
If you love What gives it its form, you’re free to receive whatever it is turning into.”
And I know it’s so, but my gosh, the beauty that comes from a Christian community lived well as something I have experienced concretely in my life, and which may be possible again in the future is just something I don’t want to give up on just yet. I want to leave room for the miracle of God’s reinvention of His Body the Church, a renewal that humans cannot create and which they cannot destroy, no matter how hard we sometimes try.
In the introduction to this podcast, you hear me naming the Raised Catholic community as a place to find God both inside and outside of church walls. That is very intentional language on my part. If you were born and raised Catholic, you might think that belonging to a faith community is the way to God, kind of the only door, but since God is clearly so much bigger than any one church and since the Church is by definition the Body of a very big Jesus with so many disparate parts, strengths and weaknesses, that is for sure not the case. God does not equal Church, because the Church belongs to God.
But back to my original question: what are we to do in the meantime?
If we see what we hope the structural Church will become in time, but we don’t see it yet, what are we to do? If we claim Jesus as our savior and friend and we are committed to growing in that relationship throughout our lives, what should we do? If we love the mass and the Eucharist and so much of the practice of Catholicism, and yet find ourselves impatient with so many of its clergy who have all of the power to shift and change the structures for better or for worse, what do we do?
Friend, I wish I knew. For now, I remember that God does not equal church. And I pray. And I study. I’m headed on retreat in a week and hopefully will work out some of this and hear from God on it. I try to serve my sisters and brothers with my gifts as Jesus taught me. For now, I go to mass, though not in the same place every week and sometimes online. I lament. Sometimes I join my voice with my friends who art in Heaven, the prophets who helped rebuild the church in their own time. And I wait in this wilderness, believing that God who is so much bigger than we think is busy making all things new in a way that I just can’t see just yet.
For now, it’s enough, because it has to be enough. But I’m wondering, friend, how about you?
Thanks so much for being with me today. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites, at Substack at kerrycampbellwrites.substack.com, or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there are a couple of ways for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Lord, would you help us to see where you are at work in your church. Help us to feel your hand in ours as you walk with us on our paths and guide us please to where you want us to be. You have an abundant life for us and we thank you. For us, our dear ones, and our Church, we pray. In the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of our Mother Mary, amen.
Thanks for listening to this pretty personal episode today, friend. Let’s pray together, and I’ll see you next time.
This week I bring you a more personal episode about my own prayerful wondering here between the two meetings of the Synod on Synodality. As we as a Church hold our breath looking for change on the horizon, there’s one thing I know for sure: God does not equal Church.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram, at my website, or on Substack. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s a way to do just that on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow.
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Art print: ”It Changes With Time” by Scott Erickson
2. Song: God is Love, by Ginny Owens and All Sons and Daughters