What is Accompaniment?

August 5, 2022 | NEW METHODS

If you’re paying attention to the latest trends in the Church, you’ve likely heard the term “accompaniment” thrown around a fair amount. While Church buzzwords can be useful, often times they can be confusing when people assume they know what it mean. So let's set the record straight. 

Where did it come from?

The term accompaniment started being used more regularly after Pope Francis’ released his landmark document on Evangelization “The Joy of the Gospel”. This document captured the hearts and minds of many in the Church and has been helpful in helping the Church rediscover her missionary calling.

He says this:

In a culture paradoxically suffering from anonymity and at the same time obsessed with the details of other people’s lives, shamelessly given over to morbid curiosity, the Church must look more closely and sympathetically at others whenever necessary. In our world, ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.

- Joy of the Gospel, 169

What does that mean for me?

To be a church that accompanies others we must be involved in the day to day lives of those we seek to minister to and evangelize. To be a church with an accompaniment model means we can’t rely simply on our parish programs to do the work of engaging people - that’s our job as missionary disciples. To be a church of accompaniment means we have to seek and save the lost, and it means that we are going to have to walk with people whose lives don’t always reflect the demands of the Gospel. It can be a bit messy, but so is real life.

If we don’t go to meet the world where they are, how can we ever expect them to hear the Gospel message in a way that has meaning, from someone who models for them what it means to have Christian joy? We can’t defer this work to others! As lay people in the Church, each of us is called to live the model of accompaniment in our day to day lives.

Accompany them to where?

Pope Francis goes on to remind us the goals of accompaniment:

Although it sounds obvious, spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom. Some people think they are free if they can avoid God; they fail to see that they remain existentially orphaned, helpless, homeless. They cease being pilgrims and become drifters, flitting around themselves and never getting anywhere. To accompany them would be counterproductive if it became a sort of therapy supporting their self-absorption and ceased to be a pilgrimage with Christ to the Father.

- Joy of the Gospel, 170

This is important-our goal is always to lead people to new life in Christ. We can better make this invitation to new life from a place of relationship. St. Paul lived this model of accompaniment in his ministry. When he went to preach the Gospel to a new community, he lived and worked among them for an extended period of time. He didn’t just show up and proclaim the Gospel to them. He got to know them. He came to love them.

He lays out the model for us in 1 Thessalonians 2:8:

"So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

We are called to share not only the Gospel message, but also we are called to share life. We are called to share not only day to day life, but also the Gospel - and lead people into life in Christ! This is the method of evangelization we are each called to embrace in day to day life.

Looking for more resources on practical ways of how to accompany others?

Proclaim Vancouver: Intentional Accompaniment series

FOCUS: Incarnational Evangelization

Archdiocese of Omaha: Why programs don’t work 



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