There is a fleeting moment at the end of every weekend liturgy when announcements can be made or omitted. Short announcements are usually met with attention; however, when the congregation is invited to sit down and stay a few minutes longer, there are quiet sighs as everyone heeds the request and wonders what’s next. A few weeks ago, I found myself in this situation hoping whatever was said would be quick so I could move on to many things that needed attention throughout the rest of the day. As everyone sat down, the pastor stood and held up a yellow piece of paper explaining that this paper was a contract the parish staff was making with the parishioners. It was a promise of what the staff had decided they would and could do for the parish. Hmm…what is this all about? My interest was piqued and the tasks of the day became less important.Every family was asked to take two of the yellow papers, read them, discuss the content, pray over them and finally return one to the parish in a few weeks signed by a family member and then keep the other as a reminder of what the family agreed to do. We were told to feel free to cross out anything we did not agree with or felt we could not do and to add things we thought were missing.Once in the car I looked over the yellow paper. The first promise from the parish staff was amazing. It was titled, “Loving our families in Liturgy” and stated, “We will welcome you regardless of your situation in life, whether you are single, divorced or widowed, whatever the state of your marriage, in a mixed faith marriage, gay or lesbian, or sharing a home without marriage; whether you are an immigrant or a newcomer; whether you are fully abled or disabled, healthy, sick, old or young; whether you are struggling with your faith or firm in your commitment. We will maintain an open door and an open heart to you and offer you a place to share in the life of the parish and grow in relationship with God.”The final promise was that the staff was there to listen, help and serve in any way needed to help parishioners deepen their relationship with Christ and grow in faith.It declared there would be no judgment and spelled out sentence by sentence that all were welcome. It was exciting and hopeful.This was followed by a promise to “Keep holy the Sabbath” making well planned weekend liturgies the focal point of parish life including prepared liturgical ministers, choirs and presiders.From that point, the promises from the parish included offering meaningful faith formation for children, teens and adults planned carefully and thoughtfully by trained catechists as well as opportunities for meeting in groups for spiritual and social purposes.Special ways to help and serve the poor would be a priority, responsible use of money was promised and help would be available in any way possible including answering questions and offering prayers when requested.The final promise was that the staff was there to listen, help and serve in any way needed to help parishioners deepen their relationship with Christ and grow in faith.I was ready to sign on with no reservations. The back side of the document asked for a commitment from each household and included “keeping holy the Sabbath” by observing it as a day off. The use of sacramentals like crosses, rosaries, prayer books, bibles and religious art in the home and giving thanks at meals was also encouraged.Families were asked to share meals, pay attention to each other and use words like “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.” Gossip was discouraged and daily prayer for others was encouraged as was care for the earth by recycling, turning off lights and driving less while walking more. Doing good deeds for others and volunteering to serve the parish as time permitted were included as suggestions.I have no idea who gave birth to the idea of a formal commitment between parish staff and parishioners, but it felt new and bold and very comfortable at the same time. It offered guidance as well as a broad welcome to anyone looking for a community in search of Christ. It is a simple message yet quite profound. Parishioners were asked to return their signed papers on a designated weekend. It was moving to see piles of yellow papers on the altar. The community seemed to wholeheartedly embrace the commitment. The documents will be kept confidential and secure and then in one year shredded. In that year, change will occur. Witnessing and being part of that change should be exciting and challenging.Anne Hansen is a member of the Camarillo Catholic community. Her e-mail address is [email protected].