Mary Parmer began an evangelism ministry around 2007 that she came to call Invite Welcome Connect. The story of how she came to create and lead this dynamic ministry is contained in Chapter One of her book, Invite Welcome Connect. After introducing herself and this evangelism ministry in the book, she goes on to describe each of the three stages of the ministry and devotes time to several critical components.
I do not plan to summarize Mary Parmer’s book. It is an easy read and I suspect that you can get an good idea of its content and Mary’s message from other sources. I will focus on the ministry of evangelism, as discussed in Invite Welcome Connect (both the ministry and the book) and its connections with the catechumenate.
First, a personal note. In my bio I mentioned that, at one point in my journey and career, I was Executive Director for the National Council for Catholic Evangelization (the NCCE). (“Evangelization” is the Roman Catholic equivalent to the Protestant “evangelism.” Why the difference? I don’t know.) . Prior to that job, I was RCIA Director of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend. During that time I began to realize the connection between evangelization and the catechumenate. Inquirers or seekers need to come from somewhere. While we can make the case that God leads them to the door of the church, we also need to realize that we are called to proclaim the Good News. In doing so, we hope and pray that inquirers are hearing God’s call through us. In any event, my focus turned to evangelization. I got involved in the NCCE. The Catholic Church was experiencing “evangelization enthusiasm” at that time. Pope Paul VI published his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi in 1975 but, for some reason, it had taken a decade to gain significant attention in the United States.
The Episcopal Church is going through a similar experience right now. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry strongly encourages evangelism. His preaching is evangelistic. He sees no reason for hesitating to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, if we truly believe that it is the Gospel. The “Way of Love” initiative is there to support efforts at the diocesan and parochial levels. Support of ministries like Invite Welcome Connect and the catechumenate is part of this effort. I pray that we can continue the current energy.
There is a connection between the two ministries of Invite Welcome Connect and the catechumenate. That connection does not seem to be immediately evident to many. Bishop Megan is a strong advocate for both ministries but I don’t think she made the connection until I pointed it out to her.
- Both “programs” are ministries, not programs;
- Both ministries recognize that there are people beyond the walls of the church who are hearing that small voice and are seeking to respond, even when they don’t know what they are responding to;
- Both ministries are “lay driven” while recognizing the need for clergy support;
- Both ministries are led by God’s Spirit to guide people to God through Jesus’ Good News of forgiveness and love.
- Both ministries embrace the Spirit’s creative force to better do God’s work
Invite Welcome Connect leads us in a way to invite and welcome those who are seeking without knowing that they are. The catechumenate adds the spiritual formation and liturgical elements that help “close the back door” by integrating people into our way of serving, of worshipping, of being a community of love. Together we are doing God’s work.