Rebuilt: Fr. White Lays Out Vision in Dedication Homily

Editor’s note: The Church of the Nativitiy in Timonium, Maryland is famous as the home of the Rebuilt movement, about which there is a lively discussion (and a bit of friendly disagreement too). Pray Tell reported on worship at this parish (in the former worship space) here. The parish recently moved into its new worship space. With kind permission of the pastor, Fr. Michael White, Pray Tell is reprinting an excerpt from his homily (they call it the “message”) for the occasion. The following excerpt will be of interest to Pray Tell readers, for it speaks of the vision of the parish and its worship style. And Rick Warren has a message from God for Fr. White : this Catholic “rebuilt” parish is part of a movement that will save this country!

[T]here are lots of people, especially out here in North Baltimore, who say they love the Church. But, they don’t belong to a parish. They don’t commit to any specific place to serve and grow. To really love the Church, you’ve got to love a very specific parish.

GK Chesterton once famously wrote:

Rome was not loved because it was great. It was great because it was loved.

We open this Church this week because we are a community of people who have committed to love this parish. Our story reaches back at least a dozen years, when we decided to set out in a deliberately different direction.

We believed the last thing Baltimore needed was another church. But, we became convinced what Baltimore definitely needed a different kind of Catholic parish. We believed it needed to look different and act differently so that we could attract different people. People who don’t like church.

We decided to be a church people who don’t like church like.

That became our vision to serve our mission.While the mission of the Church never changes, “Love God, love others, make disciples,” the methods, the strategies that serve the mission must.

We need to be unerringly faithful to our Catholic faith and the Tradition of our Church.

Not nostalgia for a romanticized past that clings to that which is merely antique.

The problem with some traditional Catholics isn’t that they want to return to the past, it’s that they’re not willing to go back far enough. They want to return to the 1950’s, or the 1850’s.What we need is a return to the Church Paul was writing to A retrieval and revival of the spirit and soul of the church of the Apostles when the Church was most faithful and most fruitful. (Those two things always go together, by the way).

We came to call this approach “dynamic orthodoxy.”

We challenged people in the pews to get up out of the pews, to take responsibility for growing in their faith and sharing it, especially among the unchurched in North Baltimore. We came to call the quintessential unchurched person in north Baltimore “Timonium Tim.”

And, we began evaluating all our programs and services with Tim in mind. We tried to recognize him and understand him, to speak to him and be relevant to him; we learned to love him.

As we set out to change there was conflict and criticism, and plenty of it (and it keeps on coming). Elsewhere we have been derided and defamed, or merely dismissed.

But, we loved our church and the vision God gave us. We remained faithful to that vision, and that faithfulness was fruitful. We are here this today because we have been fruitful.

This is fruit of love. You have loved this church. And you have not loved in some vague, emotional way that accomplishes nothing. You have loved in a way that has been entirely specific and indispensably helpful. You have loved one another through small groups. You have loved through ministry and missions.

You have shown love through your giving, especially in the last few years to our amazing Vision Campaign. The story of the Vision Campaign involved the support of thousands of ordinary people just like you.

  • I think of Denise who bought a less expensive wedding dress and gave the campaign the difference;
  • Rob who decided to pass on building that new deck to give;
  • Mike and Jeannie who stepped forward at a critical juncture and provided funding in addition to their pledge that allowed us to move forward with construction;
  • And then there was this: Lucas and Cruz opened a lemon aid stand in their front yard, collecting all the proceeds to the Vision Campaign.;

Thank you to all of you who have loved this place to where we are now.

This week, as we dedicate and celebrate this new building, let’s dedicate ourselves, to continuing to love our parish and this place, and one another, and most of all Tim.

That would be great.

I’ve told this story on the Sunday three years ago when we launched the Vision Campaign.

Around that same time Brian and I had an opportunity to visit and spend some time with Rick Warren, pastor of what is usually recognized as the largest church in the country.

And that was very special to me because it was Rick Warren, along with Pope John Paul, who reshaped our vision of the role of the church in the world.

He showed us around their amazing church, spent time with us,  we got to go behind the scenes, we saw his private office, his study where he wrote Purpose Driven Life;  for groupies like us, it was a blast.

At lunch, Rick leaned over and spoke to me very softly, almost in a whisper. His son, Matthew, had died just a year before and he shared that the experience, while the most painful of his life, had become a deeply spiritual time for him. He said God is currently revealing a lot to him.

And one of the things that God is revealing to him is that there is going to be a renewal of the Catholic Church in this country, and he said, God kept telling him.

Until, one day in prayer, he answered back, “Why are you telling me? Tell them.” And Rick said God answered him in a very direct way…   “Rick, I want you to tell them.” And he thought to himself, “How do I do that?”

He went on: After I read your book and learned about your church I knew he wanted me to tell you. Because your parish is going to be a part of it. And it’s not just about Catholics, its about Christians of all stripes and denominations coming together. And Michael,” he whispered, “this movement, this renewal, this rebuilding is going to save this country.”





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