Jan 9, 2020
The Work of Healing
Article by Richard Rohr pulled from the Center for Action and Contemplation
An Evolving Faith
Up to now, top-down religion has pretty much spoiled the show. We need trained experts, scholars, leaders, and teachers, but the truths of Christianity must be made much more accessible, available, localized, and pastoral. Most people do not need to have encyclopedic knowledge of theology or Scripture. To begin with, why not flatten out the huge and unbiblical distinction between clergy and laity? 
While Christian churches do much good, we have one huge pastoral problem that is making Christianity largely ineffective—and largely decorative. Solid orthodox theology is sorely needed (and yes, I am obsessed with it), yet we clearly need good and compassionate pastoral and healing practices ten times more!
It seems to me that we must begin to validate Paul’s original teaching on “many gifts and many ministries” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Together, these diverse gifts “make a unity in the work of service” (Ephesians 4:12-13, Jerusalem Bible). Individual communities may do this well, but on the whole we need Christian people who are trained in, validated for, and encouraged to make home and hospital visits; do hospice work and jail ministry; support immigrants and refugees; help with soup kitchens or food pantries; counsel couples before, during, and after marriage; share child development resources with families; offer ministries of emotional, sexual, and relational healing; help with financial counseling; build low-cost housing; take care of the elderly; run thrift centers—all of which put Christian people in immediate touch with other people and for which no ordination is needed. Ordination would probably even get in the way. Remember, healing was most of the work Jesus did. This fact is almost too obvious.
My vision of any future church is much flatter and much more inclusive. Either we see Christ in everyone, or we hardly see Christ in anyone. Frankly, my hope for Christianity is that it becomes less “churchy,” less patriarchal, and more concerned with living its mission statement than with endlessly reciting our heavenly vision and philosophy statement—the Nicene Creed—every Sunday. There seem to be very few actionable items in most Christians’ lives beyond attending worship services, which largely creates a closed and self-validating system.
Simply put, any notion of a future church must be a fully practical church that is concerned about getting the job of love done—and done better and better. Centuries emphasizing art and architecture, music, liturgy, and prescribed roles have their place, but their overemphasis has made us a very top-heavy and decorative church that is constantly concerned with its own in-house salvation.
Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.
 See Joe Holland, Roman Catholic Clericalism: Three Historical Stages in the Legislation of a Non-Evangelical, Now Dysfunctional, and Sometimes Pathological Institution (Pacem in Terris Press: 2018).
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Powering Down: The Future of Institutions,” “The Future of Christianity,” Oneing, vol. 7, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2019), 46-47.
Image credit: Healing of a Bleeding Woman (detail), Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Rome, Italy.