Pope Francis invites us to take our ministry to the peripheries. The challenge to that is when we can only think / imagine from within the boundaries of our group, demographics, geographic borders, whatever. It comes down to Parochial Thinking.
According to Wikipedia: Parochialism is the state of mind, whereby one focuses on small sections of an issue rather than considering its wider context. More generally, it consists of being narrow in scope. In that respect, it is a synonym of “provincialism”. It may, particularly when used pejoratively, be contrasted to universalism. The term originates from the idea of a parish ([Late] Latin: parochia), one of the smaller divisions within many Christian churches such as the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
I recently participated in a planning session for a multi-church event; one we had never done before… and found myself having difficulty negotiating with “that’s not the way we do things.” (Ahem, we have never done this before together, so how ’bout actually planning from a blank slate?) In the end, I discerned that I was planning for an event bigger than all of us together while they had very specific (and limited) populations for whom they were planning. We have all witnessed the collaborating minister at a shared event who would be obsessively insistent about rules for all, except when they might come into application related to himself or his people.
I have sat on national boards planning national things and found the group bogged down into what is in this (not for the many for whom I represent but) for me and mine! Once, I suggested that they all their take a moment and describe a baseball cap from back home – representing their own home teams or local programs. I invited them to mentally admire themselves in that cap for a moment. Then, they were all invited to take the caps off and to pack them away. Following that I distributed imagined baseball caps (budget limitations, ya’know!) and described them emblazoned with the logo of the national board for who they served. Throughout the remainder of the time, it was easy to reference “which cap are you wearing” when parochialism/ self-interests crept into conversation.
Next time you find yourself collaborating, pack a cap that will help you reach to the peripheries.