I wanted to share my experience from this past weekend.
I was at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Newport News, Virginia. I had been invited there to speak about the RCIA on Friday night, "It's the Community that Initiates," and then, on Saturday, was asked to spend a day with people from a variety of ministries from the area parishes. The topic on Saturday was: "Don't Hide Behind Your Theology Books: Leading People Into an Intimate Relationship with Jesus Christ." Both sessions went quite well, despite the fact that I was not feeling well at all; doing much better now, thank God.
I want to talk with you about this parish and their church home. The church was built in the mid-1980's. Fr. Andy Ciferni was the liturgical consultant. When I was escorted into the gathering area, what the parish calls "the commons," I was struck by the doors that lead into the worship space. I had never seen anything like it.
These sliding doors were, in a word, massive. My friends and hosts, Bob and Janet, opened them.
The church's beautiful interior opened before me. The seating is arranged antiphonally. Altar, ambo and font are along the main axis.
Here is a photo taken from the font, looking toward the doors.
I had the chance to play the pipe organ, which was just perfect for the space. Great acoustics.
The baptism font, seen above, is quite unique. Adults enter the pool for baptism; infants are baptized in the upper bowl. Warm water spills from the upper bowl, along the chains (which muffles the trickling sound somewhat), into the pool. Some more photos:
Folks, this is a worship space in which the liturgy can be celebrated well. It was so obvious to me that this community of faith put so much thinking and planning into the design of this space. Facing the people of God on the opposite side is such a good thing; you see the face of Christ looking right at you. You see people singing and praying.
I was invited to attend the parish's 8:00 A.M. Mass (my flight left shortly thereafter). I was told that this early Mass didn't have as much energy as the other Masses.
Before Mass began, the announcements were read and concluded with a warm welcome to anyone visiting. Visitors were asked to stand. Two of us did. With the antiphonal seating, people could actually see us, the two visitors. There was a nice round of applause. When I sat down, a hospitality minister found me and handed me a holy card upon which was pictured Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the parish's patroness.
When I turned the card over, my heart was filled with joy and gratitude. You all know of my complaints about parish music programs over the past year during my search for a new parish here in Chicago and my frequent visits to parishes across the country. With the exception of one parish (the cathedral here in Chicago), not one parish announced the numbers of or indicated where to find the acclamations sung at Mass.
The card reads: "So that you can fully participate in our liturgy, you can find the Mass of Christ the Savior beginning at #919 in the maroon hymnal." I spoke with the music director after Mass. She told me that this new procedure was a direct result of the comments I have made on this blog.
This is a very good way of not only welcoming visitors, but also letting visitors know that singing is important to the parish and that the parish is kind enough to let visitors know where to find the acclamations. This also gives visitors information about the parish. Folks, I sang my heart out! And the singing by the congregation was splendid.
I wish I lived in Newport News, Virginia! Congratulations and blessings to this special parish, where the liturgy is celebrated so well in such a beautiful space.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.