I tried a new church. It failed. Big time.
I had been to this particular church before in the neighboring town of Newnan for a Saturday night vigil Mass just before Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the Saturday evening vigil except for the music. They had a contemporary praise band minus the drum set. I told myself that at least the congregation knew the Creed and required prayers for the Mass with out them being projected onto a screen. But I didn’t like the sanctuary. It didn’t feel properly Catholic. Holy water was not offered in fonts inside or by the sanctuary doors. Nor the exit doors that lead directed outside offer holy water to exiting congregants. Instead holy water was offered to the congregation in the baptismal pool inside the sanctuary. On the first visit I couldn’t find the stand for the votive candles but I did spot the Marian statue for veneration in the wall. But no seemed to acknowledge her as they walked by. At first I was convinced that this church wasn’t even Catholic. So, on the first visit I left with mixed feelings.
Well, I decided to go back this past Sunday for Mass. I walked away with an even worse impression. I first noticed a lack of reverence from the congregation when entering the sanctuary. People didn’t cross themselves with holy water as the walked by the baptismal pool. A good number of congregants that I observed didn’t genuflect and cross themselves before entering the pews. A number of people were talking loudly as they entered the sanctuary and some help quite conversations after the Mass started. At one point a man left his pew to hold a quite conversation with a friend in a neighboring pew. I did like how the church used hymnals instead of projecting the lyrics of hymns onto a screen. That was quite nice. And the congregants knew all the necessary prayers and Creed for the Mass. If they didn’t know them, they used the provided Missal.
As for the Father presiding over the Mass, I liked him. He had an energetic and charismatic approach to preaching that incorporated humor, sometimes directed at himself. Like him making fun of himself for not being able to do mental math and asking the alter servers to help him a little. That made the congregation laugh and smile a little. His homely focused on Mary as this past Sunday was the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima. He preached on how the Qur’an (the holy book of Islam) honors Mary by dedicating a whole surah (chapter) to her and how Jesus is an honored prophet in Islam. He really did emphasize that by telling the congregation to remember that Islam honors Jesus as a prophet and honors Mary by dedicating a whole chapter to her in the Qur’an. The homely focused on how important Mary is to Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims. And how Mary will appear to the faithful in context that is familiar to them to tell of coming times.
The homely was fantastic and captivating. I didn’t realize how long it was! But after the homely the celebration of the Mass was halted, literally halted so that an announcement could be made concerning a monetary pledge to the Diocese of Atlanta to help support the parish and other churches in the Diocese. The announcement was made over the speakers in the sanctuary. It explained the monetary pledge and what would be done with the pledge. Then the announcement ended. Before I knew it the deacon was describing what should be done with the pledge form when the ushers started handing them out. Then congregation spent ten to fifteen minutes filling out their pledge forms with walk through instructions given by the deacon. I did not like this halt in the Mass at all. It’s hard to get back into the Mass when there is halt like this one.
Such a long halt between the readings and the consecration of the Eucharist really put me off. I know that in the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches this is not allowed even when a person holds the incense to close to their face and passes out. The Divine Liturgy (Mass) cannot be interrupted by the priest ceasing to celebrate the rite. I attempted to look this up for the Roman Catholic Church and came up with similar answers as to what would happen in the Orthodox Church. The priest can only cease in celebrating the rite if there is an emergency where the last rites should be celebrated. I have never been in a church service, be it Orthodox; Catholic or Protestant, where the service was disrupted for something so minor. I still don’t know why the Mass was interrupted to make monetary pledges.
In any case, due to poor observance of the Mass and sacred space, I will not be returning to this particular church. I have a few more churches lined up that are deserving of visits.