Monday, June 28, 2010

Visiting Churches

Remember how I told you I'd be church-jumping these past two Sundays? Well I did.
Last Saturday we ended up free (disappointingly! But we adapted and got to go to Mass at a parish we wanted to visit) so we headed to Wakefield and went to the 4 at St. Joseph.
It's such a neat experience to be a visitor at a parish Mass. It gives new perspective into what it must be like to visit our parish, and makes me want to do better at welcoming people.
At St. Joseph we felt like people were happy to be there- I got the feeling that the 4 crowd is pretty much identical from week to week- all in the same seats, of course- and the ministries were all done very well. There were a couple of interesting flourishes added to the liturgy, like the prayer that the presider recited, from the chair, after communion but before the final blessing- like his own personal Prayer After Communion.
At the end of Mass, at the final blessing, a dog (his dog) ran down the center aisle and into the priest's arms. He (the priest) thanked all of us for worshiping there, and waved his dog's paw at us. Everyone seemed delighted.
Yesterday we found a Mass in Westfield, a different diocese even, that had an 11:00 start time. We had read that the church building was new and were interested to see it- and it was beautiful. Lots of detail and flair and fancy touches. Everyone was dressed very well. The narthex was welcoming and full of information about this apparently very busy parish. It was all going pretty well until the presider, who was also the pastor, stepped down into the front of the sanctuary for his homily.
He quoted from the Gospel, "...the Lord had no place to lay His head." I thought "uh oh." But he went on to say that the members of this parish knew how the Lord felt, and were like the Lord, because while their (beautiful) church was being built, they had to have Mass somewhere else. So. Great analogy. Then he went on to say that now their parish center needs a new roof. But not to worry, because they have money in the account. But, they do need a flag for a Veteran's memorial. He announced that they would be doing a coffee-can fundraiser for that. Also, they would be having a dinner dance to celebrate their 100th anniversary as a parish, and a concert was in the works for July. And that was his homily.
I was pretty bummed out. The whole rest of the Mass was okay, but kind of lifeless. The ministries were sort of timidly done, the music was cute (kids choir and a synthesizer and guitar) but not very inspiring. But did I mention, the church was beautiful.
It reminded me that the important things in a church need to stay important- and that it's so easy to forget what's important when you are caught up in ordering light fixtures and hand-carved altars. I'd rather worship a thousand times in a worn-down church building with a happy, welcoming, faith-filled crowd than sit through a bunch of announcements disguised as a homily in a beautiful church building.

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