Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Cluster Monster

I attended
our parish worship commission meeting last night.
There was a bit of tension during the meeting
As we discussed various topics.

But in all honesty,
I created some of that tension
With my brutal honesty.

You see,
I have made some decisions in recent months
In regards to my ministry.
And some of those decisions
Were already out in the open.
Some of those decisions
I had already discussed with the pastor.

But the last decision,
Well, let’s just say
I spilled the beans
at the worship meeting last night.

I won’t detail those decisions
Here on the blog
As those are topics best held in another forum,
Specifically, the parish setting.

But I think it is most appropriate
To share in this blog
One of the “whys” of my decision.
And I think it is appropriate
Because there may be other pastoral musicians
Who now find themselves
In the same situation that I do.

One of the reasons for the decisions I have made
Is greatly influenced
by this monster named “Clustering.”
In all honesty,
I think this is nothing more than semantics,
Nothing more than the ecclesial vocabulary for “Downsizing.”

In my opinion
Clustering is only a stop gap,
Something that will only delay dealing
With the inevitable problem:
The Clergy Shortage.
And in fact,
I believe that we are committing
A sarcedotal genocide
By giving these good men
Two or more parishes,
Which only increases stress levels,
That, in turn,
Leads to all sorts of health issues.

I have more views on clustering,
But I’ll stop with that one.
Whether or not I like it,
The Cluster Monster (see image above)
is visiting our churches.
And, somehow,
We must find a way to deal with it
All the while keeping the faith.

As a pastoral musician,
I find that I must find a way
To remain standing and active in ministry,
Regardless of who gets clustered with whom,
Regardless of which parishes close.

Jeanne Cotter,
Perhaps the greatest and best liturgical pianist
Of our time,
Once said,
“Sing as if your life depended on it.”
And for those who are musicians she said,
“Play as if your life depended on it.”
What wisdom.
For the fact is,
If you are truly a pastoral musician
Those words ring true.

But lately,
It gets harder to sing the song
With all the uncertainty of clustering.

Will the mass I sing for
Still be a part of the parish schedule?

Will the parish I serve in
Remain opened, or will it be closed?

Will I be singing in a different church,
A cluster partner church,
One year from now?

Will I be singing with the same choir
Or a different choir?

Will I be accompanying on the same piano?
An electronic piano?
A pipe organ?
An electronic organ?

Will I be singing from the same hymnal
Or a different hymnal?

Will I be preparing worship aids each week?
Or will I be preparing LCD projected hymns????

From the beginning,
I did not like the clustering process.
But in as much as it is a struggle we share,
I respected the struggle and the processes thereof.
After all, there is growth in struggle.
However, the process has not respected us.

St. Helena in Wyandotte was our cluster partner.
The pastor was then assigned to St. Stan’s in Wyandotte
and the cluster shifted.
We lost our original dancing partner.
St. Helena was now to cluster with St. Stan’s
But rather than formally cluster with her new partner,
St. Helena was subsequently closed.
Yes, closed.

In all honesty,
This scared me.
But more on the illogical process of clustering. . .

Our current cluster partners are
St. Francis Xavier in Ecorse
And Our Lady of Lourdes in River Rouge.
that process took a back seat as Fr. Charles
(Pastor, St. Elizabeth in Wyandotte)
is now involved with yet another cluster,
St. Patrick and St. Joseph, both in Wyandotte.
While we have respected the cluster process
With St. Francis and Lourdes
(joint religious ed, pulpit exchanges, parish directory, etc.)
The cluster process is not respecting us.

Five parishes are now dancing together
And least two of them are sharing a partner
(oops, I mean pastor!)

As one employed by the Roman Catholic Church,
I find myself asking the question,
“Where will I be when the process is completed?”
That is a very tough question to answer
When the rules of the game keep changing.

Many in the United States
Are worried about employment,
Have already lost employment,
Are struggling financially.

Serving as Pastoral Musician
Is not only my ministry,
It is my livelihood.
In this sense,
Clustering is a real life issue for me.

My sincerest apologies
To those who may have felt some tension
At last night’s meeting
Because of what I shared.
But I would rather be brutally honest
Than leave folks second guessing
Because that only leads to gossip
And untruths being spread.
And my apologies if my sarcasm offends you.
But I have always likened myself to the cactus,
standing tall, sometimes flowering,
with just enough pointy edges for protection.
(probably an image I picked up in my youth,
being the daughter of mexican immigrants and all. . .)

Anyway, The Fact is that
The Cluster Monster
Is not a fictional character.
He’s real, folks.
And he’s hiding under the pew.
I know.
I’ve been staring him in the face.

I thank God
For the many blessings I have received in my ministry.

And I remain ever grateful to the angel
Who teaches me to be proactive.

St. Cecilia, pray for us.
St. Helena, Pray For Us.
St. Stanilaus Kostka, Pray For Us.
St. Patrick, Pray For Us.
St. Joseph, Pray For Us.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Pray For Us.
St. Francis Xavier, Pray For Us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray For Us.


Anonymous said...

i heard there are are cluster monsters living in the basement of the archdiocese. i heard they are are breeding, too. unfortunately, they have no sex organs of their own so they have to use the "boys" that get cut from the bishops. infact , that is how you become a bishop, circumcision taken one step farther. that why the bishops wear pointie hats, their other pointer got cut off. also the hat reminds them that they only have that head to think with and keeps their minds closed so their brains won't fall out. now i know why everyone says there are a bunch of weinies inthe archdiocese. anyway, so the cluster monster try to use this equipment and find out they are as useless as the pointie-hatted guysthese parts were originally attached to. because there are no female cluster monsters(after all God is a single parent) they have to find a surrogate monster to breed with. they search for the meanest monsters, real ball breakers, and they breed with them. due to a gene mutation all the cluster monsters are male and the process starts again and the cluster monsters are even angrier now so the go looking for live organs to squeeze mercilessly.
so how do we stop the cluster monsters? maybe those princes of the Church should come out of the castle and be priests again. they might even be able to grow another set. then they would be the example to lead other men to the priesthood. maybe a man with some advanced thought processes will come along to lead some women to the priesthood. i guess God did that once already. it didn't take.
anyway, the church is asleep and the management should be fired or retrained. we need to pray that SHE wakes up and starts kickin' butt and taking names.
i love your blog, dearest evil twin.

Rubi said...

At first glance your comment scared me!
But then I realized that living in fear just won't do anymore.

I must say I agree with you on several points:

There is a Monster in the basement.

The Monster has, in fact, started breading. (there have been sitings in Rochester, Cleveland, and many other places)

There are other very real very mean monsters out there.

God is a single Parent.

People are sleeping.

Advanced thought processes are definetly needed.

There are some management problems.
I'll never forget when a certain someone at the archdiocese told me that music does not qualify as evangelization. How did she ever get that job??? The Castles? Hmm. . . maybe. But there is at at least one princess that I know of in the Ivory Tower on Michigan Avenue.

In the end . . . well, no.. . .from the very beginning what was needed was brutal honesty. I don't have to like or agree with decisions that are made. But as a part of the Body of Christ, I feel that we all should have been told the exact truth from the start. "Thou shall not bear false witness. . . ." Alas, the game keeps changing.

Someone onces likened Clustering to Advent. . . .a time of looking at what has been and what is yet to be. In my mind, this is an innappropriate analogy. Advent is a time of joyful expectation. Clustering is anything but.

Evil Twin???
I doubt that you are evil.
Monsters are Evil.
People willing to sharing their thoughts, albeit, colorful, deserve a little respect in my book.

People need a sounding board,
if only to vent their anger, their hurt and frustration.
If my blog serves no other purpose
than to allow people to release all of the above
then my time online is not vain.

And you know,
I think this is part of the church's problem. The Church has been dealing with clergy shortage,
sacramental index, church attendances, $$ numbers, etc.
The Church has NOT been dealing with the affective reality of clustering.

In the end,
The Cluster Monster never needed to be a monster.
He could have been
a cute and cuddly puppy,
a creature everyone willingly and happily embraces.
(Advent - Joyful expectation!!)
Alas, He is the Cluster Monster.
Apart from her other problems, the church leadership probably realizes that they really needed a good marketing firm to help sell the clustering idea.

And, in the end,
I will remain standing.
But I refuse to call an Ugly Monster
a cute puppy when he is not that.
That would be a lie
and I can't own that.

Anonymous said...

Clustering leads to mergers & closings. Only the financially strong and those willing to fight against it may survive.

I keep wondering what will happen to all of those empty buildings. Of course, the archdiocese will sell as many as they can.

In my dream, I see them donating, FREE OF CHARGE, a few to communities which have real & serious social needs.

Our Downriver communities have a growing number of homeless & needy folks who fall through the cracks of the secular social services system which is, itself, in decline.

I believe many of the Downriver ministerial associations would be highly motivated if the archdiocese would generously reach out to communities in this way. It would give their public image a huge boost which they sorely need.

I will continue to dream as hope springs eternal!

Jerry, COSF

Rubi said...

Yes, the buildings. . . an excellent point, Jerry. . .I think I"m going to have to take a picture of St. Helena, the parish that closed, and post it to this blog. You know, I've served as pastoral musician there several times. During the time that we were clustered, I served for holy day masses. The buildings. . .sadly, that's what's left. . .

But what of the buildings?

You know, if the Catholic Church isn't careful the non-denoms will end up buying those properties. That could pose VERY problematic. For then, we will not only have people who have been hurt, people who are angry. . . .we also have people who may be looking for a new parish. . maybe even a new church. . . .

I don't know. . . I admire your ideas about buildings. . . .Hmmm, I feel another metaphor coming on. . .I believe it was Our Lady who said something like, "Tell the bishop that the temple which I so ardently desire must be built here. . . ." It would seem the ediface, at least, is there. . .But we have a lot of work ahead of us.

I pray, Jerry, that God makes manifest, somehow, the buildings and the people for ministry for the good works who describe. It would seem that the buildings are already there. Maybe this prayer should be so that decision making bodies do what's best for the people of God with those empty edifaces. . .

. . If buildings could speak, if the walls could talk. . I wonder what those churches would say. . .I wonder what they would desire their future to be. . ..