Sharing Faith As Staff
Our weekly staff meeting always starts the same way. We pray. I don't mean that we say a prayer. We actually devote twenty to thirty minutes to prayer and sharing faith. We do this every week before we plunge into the business at hand.
Our way of praying has taken some years to develop. We had some ideas at first. But over the years we have grown into a style that has become our own. It wouldn't seem right to start the staff meeting any other way.
The logistics are simple. We use the same room and table we use for the staff meeting. Everyone takes a turn leading the prayer. We go in alphabetical order from week to week. As you'll see, we don't do much advance planning. The predictability of the format keeps preparation minimal for busy staff members. It also helps us enter into the prayer more easily at every meeting. We know what to expect.
We always follow the same procedure, using the same four parts: We start with a reading of the gospel for the upcoming Sunday. We discuss several faith questions. Then we allow spontaneous petitions. We close with the Lord's Prayer.
The Gospel. The leader reads the gospel for the upcoming Sunday. Before anything else, we greet Christ present at this meeting in the holy Word of God.
Starting with the gospel has other advantages. It gives us a sense of our place within the liturgical year. It prepares us to participate in the liturgy when Sunday comes around. The discussion that follows its proclamation will help catechists and preachers focus their thoughts for the presentations they will make about this scripture.
We find it helpful if everyone at the meeting has a copy of the gospel text for reference during the discussion. But the leader may proclaim the text from the lectionary.
We use the gospel because it is the most important of Sunday's readings, but you could use one of the other readings. We like using just one. It keeps the conversation focused.
Faith sharing. Next the leader reads three
questions for faith sharing. We use the ones prepared in our diocesan newspaper
( http://www.catholickey.org / ). But there are resources by the dozens. Many religious periodicals, textbooks, and commentaries suggest several questions that help the faithful interact with the weekly scriptures.
The questions are a springboard. We don't slavishly answer them all. More often than not, somebody makes a comment that inspires more conversation. Our goal during this time is to share a little of ourselves, our beliefs, and the challenges we face.
It really helps if everybody makes an effort to participate every week. It won't always be possible, but if one or two staff members are always quiet week after week, it can hurt the trust level in the group.
For this part of the meeting to succeed, we find it helpful if everyone has a copy of the questions. That way they can refer to them during the silence that starts this part of the meeting and while others are speaking.
Petitions. Once the leader judges that the conversation has developed sufficiently, she or he invites petitions from the group. I always come prepared with a long list of names of parishioners who have asked me to pray for them. I actually do pray for them, and ask the staff to do so as well at the weekly meeting. Others contribute their concerns and remembrances.
Once again, it helps if all staff members make an effort to mention petitions. Not everyone has to do so every week, but it should be clear that everyone's needs are welcome and tended.
Lord's Prayer. The leader judges when the time has come to close our prayer. We join hands and pray as Jesus taught us. Then we go to the agenda of the meeting.
The only work we do before the prayer is to provide copies of materials we may use. For our purposes, we use the page from our diocesan paper that has the texts and questions we need for discussion. That's all the preparation we need.
By devoting this much time to prayer and faith sharing, our parish staff has come to see ourselves as a community within the community. We all implement the vision of the parish, but we do so as a church at prayer.
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