December 9, 2007

Had the occasion to attend Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church in Gilbert today. I hadn’t been there for awhile, but I wanted to experience it again and compare it with the couple of excursions I took there last spring. Since Advent is my favorite season of the Church Year, I wanted to experience it from three different perspectives, all within a single week. So here are a few observations, comparing the various worship experiences at The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany and St. Timothy Catholic Church.

1) I’ve come to enjoy churches that are bright and contemporary in their design. Both the Epiphany and St. Anne have a open and welcome feel, with bright white walls and pews of light wood and soft-color cushions, with windows and doors that look outside. St. Timothy has an oddly-designed worship space (two levels) and dark plastic chairs that made me feel more like I was attending a public assembly than worship.

2) I’ve also come like churches with a flair for the contemporary when it comes to technology. While the Epiphany still uses the Book of Common Prayer to guide the congregation through the Eucharist, St. Timothy uses wide-screen TVs employed at various points throughout both levels of the church, and – even better – St. Anne projects the songs and liturgy against walls on either side of the altar. Very effective. Today the projection used white lettering against a soft purple background to reflect the color of the season. A nice touch.

3) I’m impressed by the quality of the live music at the RC churches. Both employ multiple musicians and excellent singers (the sound system at St. Anne is a marvel to behold!). I can’t speak to the music at the Epiphany, because I’ve only attended the Saturday afternoon Eucharist there, but I will say this: having spent more than a few Sundays at my home parish of St. Anne’s in Massachusetts squirming in my seat with the uninspiring organ music and sad little excuse for a choir, I’ll take how the RCs do their music any day. Very inspiring, very well done, and all pretty much by talented young people – a delight to see!

4) The two RC churches attract a far more diverse crowd than the Episcopal churches I’ve been to out here. Many more young families and a wider range of ethnicity. The Episcopal church congregations seem to be older and struggling to appeal to young people.

5) I like when the congregation is invited to greet one another prior to the start of worship. Both RC churches do that, and it’s a nice way to start worship. I also like the way the congregation holds hands during The Lord’s Prayer at the RC churches.

6) While the services themselves are pretty identical, I prefer the prayers read during RC worship over those used at Episcopal services. OK, this is a political thing, but I LIKE the idea of prayers that call for an end to abortion, the death penalty, and euthanasia. However, I’ll say this – if we’re going to pray for the respect of all human life, it wouldn’t hurt a Church responsible for so many cases of sexual abuse on the part of its clergy to acknowledge the Church’s sins in that regard.

7) Today’s Mass at St. Anne had some lovely touches. Upon arriving for Mass one was greeted with the sound of Gregorian chant played over the sound system. Not only did it lend a lovely, contemplative air to help set the tone for worship, but it helped dampen the usual sound of people arriving and served as a welcome alternative to the usual chit-chat you hear when a large group of people assemble. Parts of the Mass today were both sung and read in Latin – something I found quite interesting.

8) While not being able to receive the Eucharist at the RC churches, I find the overall quality of the worship experience to be far batter – better music, better sermons, the invocation of a Saint or two (which I love), and a younger crowd. In all, it makes for a more energizing worship experience, which I guess is something I’m seeking at this point in my journey. There’s more churches to try out here, but of all I’ve attended, the RC churches, and St. Anne in particular, has the most enjoyable worship experience thus far.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:53 | Comments (0)
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