Yes, I Left That at Your House
A few years back, a neighbor asked me if I had a "church home." I had never heard the term used in the wild and thought it only existed in captivity.
I've always had a parish, sometimes more than one at a time. I've been officially registered at nine, but factors like daily Mass schedules have made it seem like 19. Still, I'm not sure I ever really had a church home until I came to Greenville.
I have more substantial evidence than my feelings that my parish is my church home thanks to a new ritual after Mass. My kids and I helped invent this ritual by leaving things at other people's houses.
The ritual begins when congregants reach the courtyard. Moms dip into diaper bags while dads retrieve items from their 27-passenger family vehicles. Next, one parent walks up to another. Here is what to say:
Retriever, holding out the shoes/hat/Pokemon binder: "I think you left this at our house."
Leaver: "Thanks! Yes, I totally left that at your house. I really appreciate you returning it. Be right back, I have to give this Nerf gun to Keith."
The ritual is not a means instituted by Christ to give grace, and it is not an expression of popular piety. But it does make my parish my church home.
Note: the ritual doesn't always follow the rubrics. Example:
Retriever, holding out a baby shark tote bag: "Everyone else said this wasn't theirs, so it must be yours."
Leaver?: "No, that's not mine, someone is lying to you, and it's probably Sandy. Is she answering your texts?"
Retriever: "Actually no, she hasn't replied about whether it's hers."
Leaver?: "Yep, she totally left that on purpose. Good luck. Maybe you can just leave at someone else's house and see if it makes its way back to her."
Retriever: "Good idea, thanks."
Additional evidence that my parish is my church home: I am in the company of fellow guerrilla parishioners. Guerrilla parishioners are innovative, mobile, not afraid to make things personal, empowered by their captain (pastor) to do the next right thing, and effective precisely because they are small in numbers and do lots of small things.
Example: One guerrilla lieutenant just declared a potluck in the social hall for after Mass next week. She let the pastor know and advertised it by a word-of-mouth campaign. No diocesan paperwork will be filled out and no official emails will be sent; there is a just a potluck in the social hall after Mass next week. (I'm bringing donuts cut in halves for the children and carrot sticks for my conscience.)
My friend Lenny - alas, not a Greenvillain - is a brilliant scholar who recently wrote about how we can take responsibility for our parishes. You should read it. In a companion piece about being our children's catechists, he said we must each "become a source of goodness for others." I love that phrase, and I think it sums up what goes right at our parish.
One day, this could all fall apart. People move, pastors get reassigned, and human communities on earth don't last forever. In the time that we have, I'm grateful to be raising my children with such a great team, and I fully intend to strengthen that team's unity by leaving my possessions all around town.