I went to Mass in three different churches today. I'm not bragging. I only took Communion in one, and only really sat through one whole Mass. But the differences in the three were so fascinating to me.
At our own parish, I was there for the end of the 9. Maybe I'm too in love with this parish to be objective, but I could feel the joy at that Mass. People were nice, I was surprised to see how diverse the crowd was culturally, and the kids' choir was fun and happy and praise-y. The church is bright and wide open, and the feeling that I get there is overall joyful.
A friend and I then went to the 11 at another parish in town. Mass was in the lower (air-conditioned) church, and we were greeted by the staff (I knew them, and they recognized me, but we were by no means the only ones they greeted. The lower church is darker and smaller, but the feeling was friendly. The crowd was mostly late for Mass, and really very diverse. The priest saying Mass today was African, and we wondered if the crowd was mostly African too. But it didn't feel like an ethnic Mass. In fact, after the priest would start the prayers, the music minister would lead the response, and make it as white-sounding as humanly possible. I say this as one of the whitest people you'll ever meet. Anyway, my point is, if the people there were African, they weren't there because it would be an African-style Mass.
(Should I mention here that after Mass, the priest and the pastor were shaking people's hands, and my friend swore she saw him wipe his nose with his hand before shaking hers? Ew. We went directly to the car to douse ourselves in hand sanitizer.)
Finally, I met Scott (who is on vacation and so attending Mass in an exotic foreign location) for the last half of Mass. I just asked Scott how the homily was, now five hours later, and he said "it was fine." But he can't remember what the guy said. What was memorable was that there was no AC in this church, and that the priest was wearing a fiddle back. A frickin' fiddleback!! I've never seen one in real life. He told us after Mass that it was cooler. I don't know. Also, the altar was crowded with candles and a giant crucifix, gold and ostentatious. I can't help but wonder at a priest who is standing at table, with the honest-to-goodness body and blood of Christ in front of him, but needs to look at a golden crucifix. Talk about missing the point. But hey, maybe that's just me.
All I do know is that I looked around that hot church and was amazed that so many people would come in there, on a hot Sunday evening, to sit through a less-than-memorable Mass. It gave me hope. People want to meet Christ, they want to worship, they want to pray. What if we made it just a little bit more pleasant, more meaningful, more inspiring? Just a little bit! Imagine!!