Country Club Parish

The Country Club is an institution I imagine most of us are familiar with. In addition to golf courses and space for other outdoor sports, they provide facilities for many kinds of special social gatherings. Membership in the club means having access to facilities, and rights to certain privileges. Being a guest at a Country Club is all right, however it’s not the same as membership. Being a guest means you have to know someone to get in.

How much does the state of our parishes, ministries, and Precious Blood Community resemble a Country Club? There are many churches of all denominations that seem to function as Country Clubs: it would be easy to list them though it wouldn’t be charitable. In some ways, the effect of our attitude toward who belongs in our church or community can resemble the attitude of Country Club members deciding who deserves the privileges they enjoy. It is a bastion of an elite, set up as a refuge from the lower classes.

The Country Club model of Church is one reason I believe Christianity is fading in America today. Congregations are looking for people like them, pushing away people from other social classes, age groups, and income ranges from full inclusion. Church becomes a service provider, a place to stage events and associate with like-minded people. Church is a place of excitement, motivation, reinforcement of personal values, comfort, even political activism, but not a place of transformation, deep conversion, or unconditional surrender to God’s will. Conversion in the Country Club model is where others become like the current members.

In looking ahead, one question in how we evaluate our ministry might be, “How much do we resemble a Country Club?” If we find our Church and Community does not include people we think should be there, perhaps this question will help us discover how our words and actions are being received by those we wish to reach, and how they may feel excluded in spite of our good intentions.

The post appeared originally in the September issue of the New Wine Press.

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2 comments

  1. Monica Chapman · · Reply

    Until our beloved Church has open Communion and truly welcomes ALL, letting go of the divorce/remarriage, gay unions, celibate male-only priests, etc. restrictions, I believe we are and will continue to be, a most elite country club institution. This in not what Jesus modeled for us.

  2. I would say I’ve seen the Country Club model in churches with open communion and fewer rules. The Catholic Church isn’t perfect, however elitism exists in our Church in more places than the top.

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