After so much as imitated left-over cold oatmeal I came upon a documentary in which a son was interviewing his octogenarian + mother and several of her fellow residents in a nursing home.
Mother, let's call her June, was amazing- she had only one of her own legs, the other was, in her words "bionic". Having outlived her family, friends, husband and a child, she still maintained a zest for life. There was a thread through her story and all the other stories. Although none of them had ever been wealthy, incredibly handsome/beautiful, professional scholars or professors of philosophy, each (despite cataracts and advanced years) had a spark, a zest, a thirst for knowledge, allegiance to community and showing compassion and concern beyond their own day to day living and limitations. The read voluminously. They listened to the radio or books on tape. They made a point of meeting and greeting the visitors that came into their home - whether to visit them or another of the residents. Even as the outward frame that held their organs was failing or frail, they were intentional about showing their faith by extending their spirits far beyond any limitation of their finite mortal frame. According to June , "I pray for them, you know. The boys that deliver the meals, the cooks, those sweet nurses, the young man that comes to play the piano for us, Mrs. Sullivan who comes with her dog sully. Mr. Jenkins granddaughter who is giving a dance recital next week......" She just went on an on. Her job now was to pray. Her job was to reintroduce younger people into the experience of gratitude. [It seemed to me that June was a natural at this kind of work - she had done it for years and would continue to do it as long as she could] As she went through her day showing kindness and blessing, blessings and gifts have been showered on her.... and her gratitude is real and heartfelt.
Growing and maintaining life in a parish is so far beyond the roof and the leaking foundation.... or the grandeur of the stained glass or the grounds or the sound system. Maintaining a vital community demands some attention to the physical plant.... and far beyond that to the discipline of personal and corporate prayer.... in word and deed. Having and maintaining parish vitality is dependent upon outreach, evangelism, identifying a local social/charitable need and gathering forces to address that need.
Like a Chinese menu, make a selection in each column: education, evangelism, local cause/charity, diocesan cause/charity, world-wide church cause/program...... and then make certain that the buildings (and leadership) you have are supported and maintained in order that they may be used for works of both praise and mercy.
June, the videographer's mother was pretty down to earth in her philosophy: "Any day I get up is a damn good day" "Smile when you see someone else - you both have wrinkles or you both will" "A good attitude lasts longer than a good drink". Thanks for the wisdom, June... if we're smart we will consider applying that wisdom to both our community and private lives!