Monthly Archives: September 2017

Balancing Tradition with Innovation

Churches like many institutions is naturally conservative, i.e., averse to change, desiring what is to remain as it is.

The constantly changing cultural environment in which we live poses many challenges to that conservatism. We face issues in the last 10 years that were unheard of in the last 100, e.g., same-sex marriage, how we interact with and support transgender people.

So, innovation can be seen as a scary threat around which some Church leaders “marshall the troops” and keep any–and every–change out.

Innovation and tradition can be complementary companions when approached in the right way. (The following are adaptations for ministry from a business article by Dr. Waguih Ishak in an online article from McKinsey & Company.)

Regardless of your role–pastor, DRE, teacher, diocesan director, choir director–we are all in a position to foster an environment of creativity in the planning, development, and implementation of our ministries. Here are a few ideas on how to do it.

Practice ‘Innovation Parenting’

  • Give your key volunteers the problem and let them solve it in their own way and time. Give them the important guidelines like budget and timeline, then let them go. This will take work off your plate and build your delegating skills.
  • Invite input from those you are least likely to involve, e.g, teens or grandparents for help with your elementary religious education program.

Bust Hierarchy

  • Don’t let the formal roles in your environment keep you from saying “yes” when someone comes to you with a unique idea that just doesn’t obviously fit in with your plans.
  • Create a work group of some of your biggest and most honest critics, and ask them to brainstorm ideas on how to fix the very problems they have identified.

Encourage the Unreasonable

  • It’s easy to say, “We’ve always done it this way,” so make a rule and ban that kind of thinking.
  • Put “old ways” under a really detailed microscope and explore the most reasonable and most unreasonable way your could change it or do it differently. Somewhere in that conversation, you will find ideas that both surprise and please you.
  • Set concrete goals for . . . registration, recruitment . . . beyond anything you think you can achieve — then foster the truly unreasonable things that you might have to do to get there.

Don’t Die of Indigestion

  • Don’t take on too much yourself. Innovation and creativity take up a lot of energy, energy that can be easily displaced by all of the other things you think you have to do.
  • Don’t take up too many new or creative ideas. Pace is everything. Do one thing really well and give it a really good chance for success.

Cultivate External Relationships

  • Get the broader community involved. Local business or other churches may have expertise in an area in which you are working.
  • Pair up with a neighboring parish. Two is better than one (and three is better than two!) If your goal is what you have in common, e.g., growing a strong youth ministry, collaborate instead of competing.

Teachable Moment #2: The NFL and the National Anthem

Wedding couple kneeling at MassTeachable moment #2. Stand or kneel at the singing of the National Anthem.

With the NFL season fully underway only to be overlapped and followed by hockey and all kinds of basketball (NBA and NCAA), this issue is probably not going to die out any time soon. So, how as ministry leaders and professionals do we sidestep the political aspects of this debate, and facilitate a well-grounded and fair discussion with our children, parents, adults, and leaders?

When in doubt, look to the Church and her liturgical tradition.

Let me preface this by saying, as a “lex orandi, lex credendi” Church, we’re way ahead of everyone else on this topic . . . by almost 10 years.

During the process that led to the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal (issued in 2010), there was a great deal of discussion and debate over the meaning of standing versus kneeling during the most important moment of the Mass, the Consecration. For the U.S., it was resolved that we kneel during the Consecration as a sign of the great reverence and respect we have for our Lord who died and rose again so that we might escape the bonds of sin and death.

When you travel internationally, however, you will discover (as I have seen everywhere from Italy to China) that this ritual action during the Eucharistic Prayer and Consecration are not consistent. In some countries, they stand. In some countries, they kneel. What is clear is that both standing and kneeling as ritual actions communicate reverence and respect.

As Catholics, one of the contributions that we can make to this discussion–and use as a teachable moment with our children and adults–is to ask the question, “how does each of these ritual actions express reverence and respect?”

Let’s tease out a couple of thoughts as starting points for a more substantial conversation.


  • Standing symbolizes equality — we are all on the same plane, same level.
  • Standing communicates solidarity — “we-ness” if you will, we stand together as one — one of the Church’s 7 principles of Catholic social teaching.
  • Standing exudes strength, firmness, and rootedness. We use expresses like “standing as tall as a tree” for this reason — a tree is strong, firm, and deeply rooted, it cannot be easily toppled.
  • Standing ritually is a posture of corporate prayer — think of the Our Father and the American habit in some parishes of holding hands. I doubt we would do this were we sitting or kneeling.
  • Standing embodies respect at important moments — when the bride walks down the aisle, when the queen is passing in a procession, when “Taps” is played.


  • Kneeling symbolizes humility — we bow down before that which is greater than we are, our God.
  • Kneeling is the least stable of the human postures. It captures the sense of our human weakness and frailty. We can be easily pushed over. We kneel to recognize that which is stronger then anyone of us.
  • Kneeling is often reserved for moments of sadness and grief, to recognize the losses that have brought us to this point. We kneel to acknowledge our Lord’s death and when others have died.
  • Kneeling is used in both corporate and individual prayer.
  • Kneeling is required when a person is knighted to express fealty and loyalty to the sovereign (in our liturgical life, God).

With an MA in worship, you would think that I would have spent a lot of time contemplating things like this. But I didn’t. It took graduate school to help me step back and reflect on actions that I performed every day and every week with little thought to what they meant.

Take this opportunity to bring to the light a Catholic perspective on this debate. Help those who are in your care to better understand consciously what we say when we stand and when we kneel. Don’t let this teachable moment slip by.


New Parish/School Year Brings 1 Clear Change . . . Uniforms!

By the time I hit 9th grade, I was grateful for the return of a school uniform. During my first 7 1/2 years in Catholic school, I’d studied and played in my grey plaid uniform from the time I woke up to the time I changed for bed. Uniforms were great (at least, in my young mind.) I didn’t like shopping for clothes in general, so our move in the middle of 7th grade meant that Mom and I had to buy a mini-wardrobe of outfits.

Needless to say, it was an unmitigated disaster. So many years of uniforms left me with an underdeveloped sense of style (which continues into my adulthood — hence my love for personal shoppers and shopping sites!) Thank God for Catholic high school!

All this to say that, at the start of the new parish/school year, the Mid-Atlantic Congress blog has changed its uniform.

We hope that this layout and design is easier to read, and helps you navigate to the topics and content that is most meaningful to you.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Join Pope Francis and Support “Share the Journey”

Share the Journey #sharejourneyToday’s the big day!

Let Pope Francis and our brothers and sisters around the world know you heard the call to reach out and love your neighbors by being part of the Share the Journey campaign.

Here’s a reminder of what you can do to help build a social media wave starting tomorrow.

Simply post a photo of yourself and/or your staff reaching out to migrants and refugees (see photo example on the right) with the hashtag #ShareJourney.

Or if you prefer, post this graphic instead of a photo. Posting a photo or the graphic shows your support for migrants and refugees by recognizing the challenges they face on their journeys. And be sure to ask your family, friends, colleagues, and other networks to post and take this campaign viral.

Here are some sample posts you can adapt:

Sample Tweets

  • [Insert I’m/We’re] reaching out to migrants and refugees fleeing war, persecution and poverty. #ShareJourney
  • [Insert I’m/We’re] loving [my/our] neighbor by reaching out to migrants & refugees. Join [me/us].  #ShareJourney
  • Migrants & refugees shouldn’t have to leave their homes to survive. Let’s reach out w/ love & support.  #ShareJourney
  • Reaching out is the first step in loving neighbors fleeing war, persecution and poverty. #ShareJourney

Sample Facebook Post

Today [Insert I’m/we’re] reaching out to show support for migrants and refugees fleeing war, gang violence, death threats, religious persecution, extreme poverty and more. Reach out and love your neighbor, too. Learn more, do more at #ShareJourney

Sample Instagram Post

Today [Insert I’m/we’re] reaching out to show support for migrants and refugees fleeing war, gang violence, death threats, religious persecution, extreme poverty and more. Reach out and love your neighbor, too. Learn more, do more at #ShareJourney #LoveYourNeighbor #migrant #migrants #migrantrights #migrantworkers #migrantcrisis #refugee #refugees #refugeestories #peace


Simplemente envíe una foto de usted y/o de su personal dirigiéndose a migrantes y refugiados (vea el ejemplo de la foto a continuación) con el hashtag #ShareJourney. O si prefiere, publique este gráfico en lugar de una foto. El publicar una foto o el gráfico muestra su apoyo a los migrantes y refugiados reconociendo los desafíos que enfrentan en sus viajes. Además, asegúrese de pedir a su familia, amigos, colegas y otras redes que publiquen y hagan esta campaña viral. Estos son algunos ejemplos de mensajes:

Ejemplos de tweets

  • [Insertar: Yo estoy/Nosotros estamos/Nombre de organización está] tendiendo la mano a los migrantes y refugiados que huyen del infortunio. #ShareJourney
  • [Insertar: Yo estoy/Nosotros estamos/Nombre de la organización está] amando a mi/nuestro/su prójimo al acercarme/acercarnos/acercarse a los migrantes y refugiados. Únete a [mí/nosotros]. #ShareJourney
  • Los migrantes y refugiados no deberían tener que abandonar sus hogares para sobrevivir. Vamos a tender la mano con amor y apoyo. #ShareJourney
  • Tender la mano es el primer paso para amar a los prójimos que huyen de la guerra, la persecución y la pobreza. #ShareJourney

Ejemplo de publicación en Facebook

Hoy [Insertar: Yo estoy/Nosotros estamos/Nombre de la organización está] tendiendo la mano para mostrar mi/nuestro/su apoyo por los migrantes y refugiados que huyen de la guerra, la violencia de las pandillas, las amenazas de muerte, la persecución religiosa, la pobreza extrema y más. Tiende la mano y ama a tu prójimo también. Aprende más, haz más en #ShareJourney

Ejemplo de publicación en Instagram

Hoy [Insertar: Yo estoy/Nosotros estamos/Nombre de la organización está]] tendiendo la mano para mostrar mi/nuestro/su apoyo por los migrantes y refugiados que huyen de la guerra, la violencia de las pandillas, las amenazas de muerte, la persecución religiosa, la pobreza extrema y más. Tiende la mano y ama a tu prójimo también. Aprende más, haz más en #ShareJourney #migrant #migrants #migrantrights #migrantworkers #migrantcrisis #refugee #refugees #refugeestories #peace