Focal Practices


At our Adult Forum on Sunday, October 16, we talked about the influence of technology on our lives. Technology relieves us of certain "burdens" in our lives, but it may also contribute to a sense of alienation because many of the routine jobs that we used to participate in - jobs that brought us together in community - are no longer needed. Albert Borgmann calls these community building jobs "focal things" or "focal practices".

A good example of a "focal thing" in the pre-modern world is the fireplace. The fireplace produced a "good:" heat for the home. But, it also produced other "goods" because many people had to interact in order to make the heat possible. Someone had to chop the wood, bring the wood inside the house, light the fire, and keep the fire going. All these skills were passed down from one generation to the next. In addition, the fireplace gathered people around its warmth at night where everyone would join in conversation, play games, and so forth. When the fire went out, everyone went to bed.

While many of us have fireplaces today for decoration and occasional use, technology has made the fireplace unnecessary. The "technological device" we call the modern heating unit produces all the heat we need for all the rooms in our house all the time. It produces the "good" (heat) without us doing good. Thus, it no longer focuses the family or produces opportunities for interaction. In fact, it has become simply a commodity that we purchase.

We do not want to go back to a pre-modern world, but we do need to find other focal practices that offer opportunities for sharing our lives with each other. We need to do that because the presence of God, the grace of God, emerges in the midst of that sharing.

That is why we have begun to change our outreach giving policies here at Holy Comforter. Instead of just giving money to worthy organizations, treating them as commodities, we now try to have some interaction with the organization and the people they serve. Good News Partners (GNP) is a good example. We not only give money to GNP, we have also formed a partnership with them that includes an annual work day. The work day is a "focal practice". It is an opportunity to discover the grace of God as we go about the mundane activities of painting and cleaning and, of course, sharing our lives with each other.

Other outreach projects can also serve as "focal practices". Holy Comforter sponsors a Thanksgiving Food Drive each year for the Primo Center. Taking the whole family to the grocery store, picking out foods, packaging them, and bringing them to church together can be a wonderful "focal practice" for your family. And, more than that, your gifts allow the Primo Center to hold its own "focal practice". In most years they receive more than they need, so they share the abundance with the people of their neighborhood by holding a special "Thanksgiving Celebration".

Service is one of the four keys to living out our baptismal covenant that Pastor Heath has introduced this year. We hope you will take advantage of the many opportunities for service that Holy Comforter provides throughout the year.

• Parish Community Service Project, Good News Partners
• Thanksgiving Food Drive, Primo Center for Women & Children
• Jesse Tree Christmas Giving, Connections for the Homeless & Holy Family School
• Easter "Laundry" Baskets, Cathedral Shelter
• Art & Crafts with children, Good News Children
• Food Preparation and Service, A Just Harvest