Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ideal Parish Profile

Parish profiles are notorious for trying to be all things to all prospective rectors, often whitewashing the challenges and painting rosy portraits of parish life. It doesn't take long after ordination for many priests to learn that they must put on their hermeneutic lenses of suspicion with parish profiles, reading between the lines and, in consultation with others who know the parish, looking for red flags. What would it be like for a parish to just lay it all out on the table in its profile, letting the chips fall where they may?

While he doesn't cover every conceivable angle on this front, The Postulant may have outdone himself in a recent posting entitled, "Things you will never, ever see in a parish profile," at least when it comes to the topics of worship and Christian education. He's certainly hit the nail on the head for me:

"We are looking for a rector who will guide us into more traditional worship."

"Our favorite sermons offer Catholic theology with evangelical delivery."

"Adult education at Saint Ethelred's follows the C.S. Lewis rule: after reading a new book, we never allow ourselves to read another new one till we have read an old one in between."

"Our previous rector refused to devote adult education time to any study of the works of Spong, Pagels, Borg, and the like. We agree with this stance but remain disappointed that he did not also burst into derisive laughter at the very mention of their names."

I'm with The Postultant: if I read a parish profile that said things like this, it would, indeed, warm my heart.


Peter Carey+ said...

I just read this, too...just awesome!

Peter Carey+

The Postulant said...

Glad you liked it!

I had intended the companion piece -- language from real parish profiles that tells me I'm not a good fit -- to be much longer, but actually most profiles are so bland that they convey nothing. Every parish sounds like every other parish. The profiles that give you a sense of the distinctive character of a place are rare. Wouldn't that stage of the search process go better if parishes were frank about what they're like and what they're looking for? Thanks to the Dogma of the Long Interim, parishes go through these intense self-assessment exercises, only to find that whatever they learn about who they are and what they need can be stated for public consumption only in the most generic, sanitized way.