The Clerk Canterbury Tales Quotes

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Etymologically, paroikia (a compound word from para and oikos) literally means “next to” or “alongside of the house” and, in a technical sense, meant a group of resident aliens. This sense of “parish” carried a theological context into the life of the Early Church and meant a “Christian society of strangers or aliens whose true state or citizenship is in heaven.” So whether one’s flock consists of fifty people in a church which can financially sustain a priest or if it is merely a few people in a living room whose priest must find secular employment, it is a parish. This original meaning of parish also implies the kind of evangelism that accompanies the call of a true parish priest. A parish is a geographical distinction rather than a member-oriented distinction. A priest’s duties do not pertain only to the people who fill the pews of his church on a Sunday morning. He is a priest to everyone who fills the houses in the “cure” where God as placed him. This ministry might not look like choir rehearsals, rector’s meetings, midweek “extreme” youth nights, or Saturday weddings. Instead, it looks like helping a battered wife find shelter from her abusive husband, discretely paying a poor neighbor’s heating oil bill when their tank runs empty in the middle of a bitter snow storm, providing an extra set of hands to a farmer who needs to get all of his freshly-baled hay in the barn before it rains that night, taking food from his own pantry or freezer to help feed a neighbor’s family, or offering his home for emergency foster care. This kind of “parochial” ministry was best modeled by the old Russian staretzi (holy men) who found every opportunity to incarnate the hands and feet of Christ to the communities where they lived. Perhaps Geoffrey Chaucer caught a glimpse of the true nature of parish life through his introduction of the “Parson” in the Prologue of The Canterbury Tales. Note how the issues of sacrifice, humility, and community mentioned above characterize this Parson’s cure even when opportunities were available for “greater” things: "There was a good man of religion, a poor Parson, but rich in holy thought and deed. He was also a learned man, a clerk, and would faithfully preach Christ’s gospel and devoutly instruct his parishioners. He was benign, wonderfully diligent, and patient in adversity, as he was often tested. He was loath to excommunicate for unpaid tithes, but rather would give to his poor parishioners out of the church alms and also of his own substance; in little he found sufficiency. His parish was wide and the houses far apart, but not even for thunder or rain did he neglect to visit the farthest, great or small, in sickness or misfortune, going on foot, a staff in his hand… He would not farm out his benefice, nor leave his sheep stuck fast in the mire, while he ran to London to St. Paul’s, to get an easy appointment as a chantry-priest, or to be retained by some guild, but dwelled at home and guarded his fold well, so that the wolf would not make it miscarry… There was nowhere a better priest than he. He looked for no pomp and reverence, nor yet was his conscience too particular; but the teaching of Christ and his apostles he taught, and first he followed it himself." As we can see, the distinction between the work of worship and the work of ministry becomes clear. We worship God via the Eucharist. We serve God via our ministry to others. Large congregations make it possible for clergy and congregation to worship anonymously (even with strangers) while often omitting ministry altogether. No wonder Satan wants to discredit house churches and make them “odd things”! Thus, while the actual house church may only boast a membership in the single digits, the house church parish is much larger—perhaps into the hundreds as is the case with my own—and the overall ministry is more like that of Christ’s own—feeding, healing, forgiving, engaging in all the cycles of community life, whether the people attend
Alan L. Andraeas (Sacred House: What Do You Need for a Liturgical, Sacramental House Church?)