ASHWAUBENON — Simone Brosig, Ph.D, opened her keynote address at “Gather in Joy, One Body in Christ,” the 2021 discipleship seminar, with singing for a purpose.
Brosig, liturgy consultant for the Diocese of Calgary and an author, broke the audience of nearly 700 into two groups on Oct. 21 at the Resch Expo. She invited all to join in the singing of Psalm 122 — “I rejoiced when I heard them say let us go to the house of the Lord” — breaking up the room into two-part harmony.
The song served as an example of Brosig’s theme for her morning talk.
“Hospitality and liturgy in terms of building capacity, building capacity in worship. To build capacity in you to praising God in song,” she said “What I aimed to do was to enable you to sing. The idea of building capacity, I believe, is one of the most neglected aspects of hospitality.”
Brosig explained that liturgical hospitality is not something we do for other people and is different from the hospitality industry. The greeters at Mass, and coffee and donuts after the liturgy, welcome visitors, she said. There is another level of hospitality that makes members of the parish feel at home. She compared it to a friend who comes to your house and helps herself to a glass from the cupboard.
It’s the hospitality when people invite themselves over “because they believe they belong,” she said.
Brosig addressed the effects of COVID-19 on parishes. No matter your views on the pandemic, “It’s effect on our society is undeniable,” she said. “Even as some places return to fewer restrictions, nothing is the same as it was before.”
The call to “go back to normal” may not be possible — and may not be what we want, said Brosig. She pointed to declining Mass attendance statistics before the pandemic.
There was already “declining reception of the sacraments in terms of baptism, first Communion, marriage,” she said. “We probably said we weren’t completely satisfied before. The pandemic, in some ways, gave pause to our lives as we knew them and exposed our weaknesses.”
A positive was that people slowed down from their fast-paced lives, said Brosig.
For “other people, the stillness revealed emptiness or dysfunction that was previously concealed by the busyness,” she said. “Either way, truth emerged from this slowing down.”
Will church attendance improve?
“For most people, they maybe attended only out of habit or out of obligation, rather than faith or conviction,” said Brosig. “Are they coming back? … What really matters in living our faith? Maybe we have an opportunity here to reopen, to rebuild, to reconvene in a way that is perhaps better than before.”
Brosig asked seminar participants to discuss what they missed during the time of restrictions during the pandemic, what “silver linings” they discovered and, then, what they didn’t miss.
The growth of the domestic church, “people doing things at home” and “cultivating an intentionality or discipline of prayer” stood out for Brosig as silver linings.
“’What did you not miss?’ This is one of the most important things,” she said. “That’s the clutter. That’s the clutter that can keep you from having time to implement the new things and going deeper into more impactful things. Our faith lives could be cluttered. Being too busy could keep us from (going) deeply in communion with Jesus and one another.”
Brosig also addressed struggles in parish ministry. She said that it’s not necessarily a bad thing if “we can’t get enough people for this ministry” or “nobody is showing up for this program.”
“It’s giving you information that maybe this ministry isn’t responding to the needs right now,” she said. “Maybe it’s grown so much that you’ve answered the need. It’s an invitation to rethink and let go of some things.”
Brosig warned against recruiting too many people for ministry roles. She pointed to a big roster of lectors as an example. If you have a large group, a lector may only read once every two or three months.
“What if you find the people who really feel called to this ministry and went deep? Maybe they aren’t there every Sunday, but (have them lector) more often so they can really develop in this ministry and be able to train others,” she said.
“Why is it important to build capacity for worship?” she asked. “Liturgy is performative, but it’s not a performance. We don’t have a division between actors and spectators. Everyone is participating in liturgy.”
The ministry of the assembly needs to be cultivated in parishes, said Brosig.
In her second keynote address, Brosig further discussed the role of the assembly at Mass within her theme, “Feelings Are Your Friends.” She discussed how the Catholic Church, unlike some other faiths, has “a way of accommodating a wider range of feelings.”
Brosig provided a personal example of when she brought her feelings to liturgy and relied on the ministry of the assembly. She attended Mass following the death of her father.
“I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t respond. I needed the assembly, other people around me, to do that on my behalf,” she said.
Brosig also read chapter four from her book, “Holy Labours, a Spiritual Calendar of Everyday Work.” The chapter, titled “April,” addresses the labor of feelings. Brosig then invited seminar participants to discuss which feelings are associated with parts of the Mass. She closed her address with Lectio Divina, a Scriptural reading, meditation and prayer.
View more photos from the Discipleship Seminar on Flickr.