Like most North American jurisdictions, we have a ministerial association where the various rectors, priests, ministers, pastors (and rabbis if we had any), etc. meet monthly to “talk shop.” These groups often include chaplains from local seniors’ homes, hospitals or jails, as well as full-time youth workers with parachurch organizations.
The local shoe stores may be in competition, but by virtue of this monthly meeting, the churches can honestly say they are working together on various community initiatives. The various clergy may not agree on every matter of faith and doctrine, but these religious professionals have, at the very least, a context in which to dialog with other men and women who have chosen the same vocation.
But they are, at the end of the day, restricted to the professionals, and there are a great deal of initiatives that never get brought forward for discussion, and a whole host of other ideas that never get presented because, despite the stereotypical idea that these people only work on Sunday, they are actually quite pressed for time.
Which is why I think our ministerial should be complemented by a laiterial. That’s right, a laiterial. Didn’t expect my spell-checker to be too happy with that one. Why not something where one member of the laity in each congregation meets with representatives from other assemblies and places of worship for the purpose of seeing if more can be accomplished by working together?
This means not just a loose collection of people meeting in an “inter-faith” context, but actual selected delegates, representing each faith group with a purpose and agenda. People who know what it means to get something accomplished. People who recognize that their various pastors and ministers have an entirely different set of priorities when they meet each month, and want to produce something in conjunction with them that may take great amounts of time and effort.
People from different places of worship can work together in ways that clergy simply cannot. It’s the potential of cooperation on a much more grassroots level. It’s about interacting with people who attend the church across town. It’s about being in conversation with people whose believes are often extremely divergent. For the Christian, it’s a context yielding to a different definition of what it means to be salt and light.
The type of thing these meetings can produce is going to be of a very general nature in terms of inherent spirituality. But it can show that religion — any religion — is more than just doctrine. It’s doctrine plus ethics. Orthodoxy plus orthopraxy. Talk plus action.
Laiterial. It’s not in the dictionary. Not yet.
Coming monthly to a Waffle House* or church basement near you.
The word “laiterial” is the exclusive intellectual property of Paul Wilkinson and Thinking Out Loud unless of course, you actually make public use of the term, in which case I’d be too flattered to object.
*Canadian readers: For Waffle House think Tim Hortons culture but with a broader menu and better pricing.
Since this first appeared in 2009, I continue to be convinced that what’s really needed is a tearing down of the walls between professionals (clergy) and the rest of the congregation. Maybe a joint ministerial/laiterial.