Mapping the future

MAPPING THE FUTURE is actually envisioning the future in visual terms.  James Canton's book, the Extreme Future (Penguin Group 2007), that gives a picture of the top trends that will reshape the world in the next 20 years, has powerfully captured the need to welcome the extreme future prepared.  Canton writes: "Maps are so much revealing, though, when they're studied closely in the context of when and where they were created.  Maps are snapshots of time that chronicle change, the evolution of thinking about navigation, conquest, commerce, threat, and opportunity.  They are more than just geography.  Maps change when new information is introduced. I thought about maps as a metaphor for strategic thinking.  Maps were a product of an ongoing discovery process to navigate not just geography, but change itself." (Extreme Future, pp. 16-18)

The future map has the following key components that need to be taken together in order to track trends and make reasonable forecasts: anticipate, adapt, evolve, and innovate.  The domains of the future map are society, technology, customer, market, and competition.  I'm just wondering how to translate the future map into a pastoral tool for finding the direction of parishes or dioceses.  Of course the content of faith remains unchanged but the context of living one's faith changes.  I think the four components of the future map could be used to see the direction of a parish or an institution in the next twenty years.  The future pastoral map domains of the church could be changed according to context, stewardship, transforming relationship, and solidarity.  However, what is crucial is to facilitate the welcoming of the future by anticipating changes in pastoral context, by adapting to new situation and by allowing the situation to evolve without being afraid to innovate.

I was talking a few days ago to somebody who has been working for a long time as a general manager of a well-known golf club in Long Island, New York while actively involved in a parish ministry.  Over a glass of wine and pasta, he shared how he was anticipating the collapse of the big cities due to lack of water, terrorism, health issues, and other problems. He could foresee the future of the church in western countries as going back to small communities outside the big cities where people could have more quality time with families and also a lot of time for farming or ecological activities.  I was struck by his vision of the future of the Church vis-à-vis the changing context of big cities.  What kept me thinking after I got home was how do I see the future of the church in small villages.  The decision of the Archbishop of Caceres to create more parishes in order to serve better the faithful in remote and coastal parishes has been pastorally sensitive to the needs of big parishes.  A priest could not possibly serve well more than thirty thousand or forty thousand parishioners.  In other words, I find that creating smaller parishes is the way to go for the future of the local church.  Small parishes with a lot of opportunities for reaching out to the un-churched and for a more focused activities and programs could make parishes vibrant communities of faith.

The church is a pilgrim church.  The future of the church depends on the present experience of faith alive in the community.  Nobody could actually make a forecast of what the church will be like in the next 20 years.  But what is certain is that the future of the church is in the hands of Jesus Christ.