The Papacy for New Power

by julie.brown on April 27, 2016 - 7:56pm

In an article for CBC News, the Associated Press describes the way in which Pope Francis’ papacy has shown itself to be reflective of modern leadership tendencies. Noting that the Church has often been self-centered and isolated from its followers, Francis calls for priests to “get out of their sacristies, get their shoes muddy, [and] get involved in the lives of their faithful”. He believes that all members of the Church are equal, and that those ranked higher are “no more important” than those in the pews.

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has made it clear that he intends to work on developing a system for communication within the church. He has even gotten himself an Instagram account! But the pope is going even further; citing age-old documents which call “for a more decentralized Church authority,” Pope Francis wants to “change the very nature of the papacy” to be more truthful to the purpose of Christianity and the way that is shown - through actions of kindness and generosity, and through an eagerness to listen and to help.

Much of my research has been focused on ways that the church – at a much lower level than the pope, mind you – has been committed to this same ideal of communication and outreach. Christian communities are responding to current issues and situations, listening to where help is needed, and responding as a whole, united movement.

At a church whose youth pastor I interviewed, the youth group was leading an initiative called “Générostié Extrême” (Extreme Generosity), where funds are collected in order to sponsor various volunteer initiatives. In the past, they have given out boxes of gifts around Christmastime to families in nearby houses, and sent boxes out to Native American reserves with an organisation named “Canoé de l’espoir” as well. These enterprises, while organized by certain leaders in the church, would be impossible without the members of the church, all contributing and participating in the best way they can.

Another church organized a benefit luncheon, thanks to the beautiful volunteer spirit there, whose profits went to sponsoring a family of Syrian refugees arriving in Canada.

Members of the congregation are the ones that fund these projects, that sponsor them, and that bring them to life: if that’s not the definition of “crowd-funded kickstarter”, I don’t know what is.

It’s encouraging to see how people in positions of authority within this branch of Christianity are realizing how vital working within the community, as a community, is to the mission of the church.

Christianity at its core, as Pope Francis says, isn’t some hegemonic, authoritarian monolith; the Church grew because of the people who gave their lives for the propagation of their faith. It is grounded in people and immensely peer-driven: all ideas that link to the concept of New Power. As Fresh Expressions notes, “one of the striking features of the earliest church is the sense of shared life.”

Elders teach the young, disciple them, in order to have many people who are capable of pushing forward the movement. New Power is almost essential for the church to be able to fully impact its neighbouring communities in effective ways. Volunteer efforts need to be peer-driven and stem from each member’s motivation and, as Brandon Giggs puts it, “people's appetite - and capacity - to participate”. Without such mass participation, churches will stagnate in their efforts to benefit their communities.

Sources:

The Associated Press. “Pope Francis calls for fewer rules, more mercy in mission statement.” CBCNews. CBC/Radio-Canada. 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/pope-francis-calls-for-fewer-rules-more-mercy-in-mission-statement-1.2441043

“Discipleship requires commitment to a Christian community.” Fresh Expressions. Fresh Expressions. https://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/guide/discipleship/community

Griggs, Brandon. “How ‘new power’ is upending the status quo.” CNN. Cable News Network. 2 Jan. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. http://us.cnn.com/2014/12/31/tech/cnn-10-ideas-new-power/index.html

About the author

Julie Brown is a Digital Imaging and Studio Arts student at Champlain College. She is very interested in matters concerning culture and the arts, as well as youth matters, technology and social activism.