One of the greatest gifts of liturgical renewal has been the gradual return to a focus upon the various rites of preparation and initiation during the Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle. However, concurrently with this renaissance of attention to the deep meanings of initiation, and its essentially communal character, the church finds itself embedded in a culture which is is increasingly individualistic, alienated and transient.
In 2010, D. Jay Koyle invited readers of Liturgy to reflect upon the centrality of preaching to the development of a truly communal christian identity into which converts can be initiated.
Yet this may be where Christian initiation experiences its greatest shortfall today. Frequently, the crucial communal character of Christian initiation is missing. Unsure of any shared identity beyond institutional or cultural affiliation, and lacking a compelling missional ethic, many congregations do not possess the formational orientation that provides for a sustained and deliberate initiatory process in its midst. In short, churches cannot bring others into a community of profound ecclesial identity and behavior if they are laking these qualities.
Experience persuades me that it is possible to initiate people into a radical and faithful sense of belonging to and behaving as the body of Christ in the world. However, this only happens to any significant degree if that same sense of belonging and behaving is cultivated and at work within the congregation itself. Therefore, if a church is to know a vigorous process of initiation, Christian formation must also concern itself with the ongoing reshaping of its members into an alternative community, missional in posture, and able to accompany others into such a Spirit-filled communion.
How does your congregation attend to the need of new Christians to be thoroughly and deliberatively included in a new community?
D. Jay Koyle (2010): "The Initiating Church Needs Preaching," Liturgy, 25:3, 17-18