Pope Francis seems to have it right: mission is not about doing attractive things in our Gothic buildings (or whatever architectural fad we follow), it is about inviting people to a feast. And he doesn’t simply mean, “Come to Mass.”
Perhaps he knows this wonderful story that Tony Campolo tells: arriving in Hawaii from the US mainland, his jet-lagged body kept him awake, and he found himself at a Honolulu diner in the middle of the night. Many of the clientele at 3:30 in the morning turn out to be local prostitutes. One, named Agnes, was commenting that the next day would be her birthday, but she received nothing other than a surly response from one of her friends. Agnes replied that she wasn’t angling for anything. She didn’t want a present, and she had never in her life had a birthday party.
Campolo had a word with Harry,the owner of the diner, and his wife. As a result, the next night there was a birthday banner up for Agnes, and a chocolate cake. Everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her when she came in at 3:30. The cake, with lit candles, was brought out and Harry urged Agnes to blow the candles out so that everyone could have a piece.
Dumbfounded, Agnes asked Harry if she could keep the cake a little while first. He agreed, and she took it to her home, a couple of doors away.
As people stood in stunned silence, Campolo offered to pray. At the end of his prayer, Harry said, “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”
“I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”
“No you don’t,” said Harry. “There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”
Was Harry right?