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    A View from the Pew
    Wednesday
    Jul062011

    An Interesting First View

    An Interesting First Visit 

    Well, here I am on my first View from the Piew visit. On the whole, a really good experience. Does any of it sound like your place of worship on a Sunday morning?  

    Music

    The organist/music director/choir director played with great technical skill on both organ and piano. However, I found a lack of emotion within the accompaniments. There was no breath to accommodate the assembly song and the tempo seemed extraordinarily fast.

    The cantor sang well and led well, obviously very comfortable with the liturgy and role to serve it. The psalm was appropriately proclaimed from the ambo. However, the psalm book was not located at the ambo but carried as the cantor crossed the sanctuary. The symbol of singing the Word became a bit convoluted by this simple lack of preparation.

    Hospitality

    The entranceway of the church could serve as one for a grocery store or a shopping mall. From the two areas of the parking lots to the rotary and circular drive, the passageway of this church, although pleasant, fails to direct corporate progress and shared journey toward a common destination. Once reached, the doorway fails to signify sacred space.

    The gathering space includes a small living room area to the right past the doors, a view to an exterior lake and echoed in a water fountain, which, in my opinion, should have served as the location for the baptism font in this spacious gathering space. Instead, the baptism font, hewn out of cut stone, is located inside another set of doors and to the right of the rear of the church within its own niche against glass walls of the same lake. Was the water fountain in the gathering space a nod to the Easter season and replaced by a Christmas tree within that season? I must return in December to discover the answer to that question.

    Members of the community welcomed me into the gathering space and handed me a hymnbook before I entered another set of wooden doors that empties into the body of the church. Once inside, the church remained silent until Mass began. No one greeted anyone as they found their pew. No one, to my eye, went to the font to bless themselves with holy water before finding their location.

    Environment

    The only clue of the church season of Easter met me as I entered the church with the running water of the little water fountain and a few flowers within the sanctuary of the main church. The symbol above the altar distracted me. A giant rosary hung in the space above the altar, (I would guess to signify the month of May) bringing attention to devotional prayer rather than to the ambo and altar. I found the rosary very distracting and wondered if within the glorious season of Easter, the environmental ministry might consider an explosion of visual art from beams of the expansive barn-like structure, suspending strips of colored materials that would move freely within the open structure, indicating the eschatological implications of the season. The colors might change at Pentecost and remind of us rushing wind and tongues of fire, evoking the power of the Spirit within an artistic concept.

    The bell tower that flanked the outside structure went unused. No call to worship issued from its domineering presence summoned the assembly to prayer. The call of bells invites human emotion and evokes an invitatory message of welcome into sacred terrain and I mourned that they went unheard. To let a bell tower go unused seems such a waste of what could serve as a preliminary song of joy that reaches Christian ears, reminding those within its beckoning peal to sing a new song to the Lord in gratitude and public acclaim to God.

    Presidential Skills

    The presider preached well and presided well. However, I found his speech delivered at lightning speed! The most heartfelt ‘prayer’ was the presider’s mention of the annual parish festival, which raises thousands of dollars to sustain the parish budget. His brief but poignant words of gratitude to all who participated put the first warmth of the liturgy into the hearts of all present. I had to wonder why the Good News did not receive the same passion or evoke the same gratitude.

    Children’s Liturgy of the Word

    Although the church was packed with young families and young children, there was no mention or presence found in the liturgy or in the parish bulletin of CLOW.

    RCIA No mention or presence anywhere to be found in the liturgy or in the bulletin of its existence.

    Parish Education and Social Life           

    Distributed at the door before the liturgy (not a healthy practice, in my opinion), some of the parishioners who arrived early or on time read the parish bulletin before the liturgy commenced. The bulletin contained the usual Mass intentions and Mass schedule, information with the pastor’s sabbatical blog, an invitation to gather in the parish hall after one of the morning liturgies, hosted by the bereavement ministry of the parish. The usual parish statistics of giving included a diocesan appeal for its annual charities appeal, along with information about a grief support group that found its home in another parish about 15 miles away. The bulletin also included information about sessions for young people (Theology on Tap, Emmaus retreat weekend, senior youth ministry), a Catholic tour to Beijing led by a former associate pastor of the parish and a current retired pastor who presided at Sunday liturgies, woman’s guild and couples’ club notes and resources for those who need assistance with substance abuse problems. Fully expecting a page of sponsors on the back cover, I found instead a reflection on the Sunday gospel. Not a sponsor page to be found anywhere on the bulletin. Unusual and refreshing to see a parish subsidize its own newsletter!