Life Works Better with Participation
- The Rev. Bob Dannals
- Jun 29, 2017
- Blog Feed
Most of us are not great athletes or musicians, but we've played enough sports and music to know that most of the time it's more exciting and life-giving to be a participant than a spectator.
When I was a young priest in the early '80s, I played with a group of parishioners in a city-wide softball league. Some of us had played high school and/or college ball, but this was a pedestrian league of mediocre play.
During those same years, I served as one of the chaplains for the local triple-A baseball club. Following the invocation, I was invited to sit in the club section and enjoy a good view and nice refreshments.
Sometimes during a given minor-league game, I'd be at Knight Field, in posh seats, watching a high-level baseball, and I'd see the third baseman snag a blazer down the line and I'd wish that it was Thursday night so I could be catching one myself. I'd watch someone hit a soaring home run, and I'd recall one of our guys from the "Rounders" crush one over the center field fence. Despite the pulled muscles and the bruises from bad-hop grounders, I wished most nights to trade Knight Field for the hard-packed field at the city park. In short, I wanted to be in the action, not just watch it.
Spectating never compares with the thrills of being in the middle of the action.
Every local church member and citizen of this country has a choice to make. I can park my body in the spectator section, watch the church and/or the country play out its mission, chat with a few friends, and then make my way safely home. That choice makes for a nice, safe Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Or, I can throw myself into the adventure by rolling up my sleeves, joining the team in commitment, giving and service, and help build the church, the country, and larger society.
When I ask a long-term volunteer at Holy Innocents' when they became a regular committed participant they almost always point back to a specific serving moment that sealed their choice. "In that moment," they say, "I felt the God of the universe use me in an important way and I discovered that there's nothing in the world like it! It beats all other experiences."
And so it's July 4th week. It's a good time to ask ourselves whether or not we're serving church and country as a participant, or are we conveniently sitting on the sidelines. What we know about many past experiences is that our lives work better when we participate.