Recently, a couple of members of our parish council asked if I was interested in being a council member or in serving on the Stewardship committee. I feel a little guilty for saying no, but I feel pulled toward prayer and meditation and learning about a deeper faith. In light of this, I’m not sure how to best serve the Church and, in particular, my parish at this time in my life. How is one to balance serving in the Church with prayer and meditation and learning?
It is only my personal opinion, but sometimes we are made to feel guilty—and sometimes we make ourselves feel guilty—if we are not engaging in all sorts of “activities” and “busy-ness” around parish communities, implying in some way that if we’re not teaching Sunday School or counting the collection or slicing bagels or cutting the lawn that we are not “serving” the Church.
Implicit in this is the incorrect notion that praying, studying, meditating, struggling for “growth in life and faith and spiritual understanding” and “working out our salvation” are somehow secondary pursuits, or that those who merely pray and meditate and study are not “active” in the community or are not “pulling their weight.”
What is unfortunate in such instances is that, while indeed there are those who are called to teach Sunday School or count collections or slice bagels or cut lawns, there are also those who are called to pray—for the community, for the Church at large, for the growth of the parish, for those who teach and slice and mow lawns, for the clergy, for those who do not pray, and for those who have no one to pray for them. It is only my opinion, but there are those who are called to this “ministry”—as opposed to “activity” or “busy-ness” for the sake of keeping busy or merely looking busy.
Saint Paul clearly teaches that there are many ways to serve God and others, that God has blessed each individual with particular gifts and talents “for the building up of the Body of Christ,” and “so that in all things, God might be glorified.” Some are called to teach; some are gifted to preach; others are blessed with musical talents, financial acumen, organizational skills—all of which are important in the life of any parish community.
And I believe that there are those who are especially gifted to pray, to sit at the feet of the Lord, as did Mary, the sister of Lazarus, while others, using their gifts and talents, pursue teaching and slicing and mowing.
So, it is only my opinion, but we need to not only consider praying and studying and reflecting as a genuine ministry of the Church—of even greater importance than collecting food for the needy—as, without prayer, all of the other things are simply reduced to “busy-ness” for its own sake and “activity” for the sake of anything other than praising the Lord. The trick is to transform activity into ministry—to slice the bagels for the sake of the other and as a way of “washing one another’s feet” or to teach Sunday School not for the sake of “keeping busy” but for the sake of planting the heart of the Gospel—a Gospel that hinges on prayer—in the hearts and souls of others.
What I might suggest is that you engage in those things which are expected of everyone else in the parish community while using whatever talents and gifts God has given you to support those who have other talents and gifts and who fulfill other functions that help to make the faith community “whole, complete, and lacking in nothing.”