February 18, 2009

We’re only a week away from Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, and this year I’ll be spending it worshipping at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Gilbert. After a long search I think I might have found a keeper, at least when it comes to calling a place of worship the center for my spiritual life.

(Ed. note: St. Mary Magdalene has its own parish website [you can find it here], but I can’t stand websites that come with their own music. For one thing, it drowns out whatever other video the site might contain – in this case, among other things, Fr. Greg’s greeting and status of the parish’s building campaign; more than that, however, the music they’ve chosen isn’t even that good! There is such a thing as good contemporary worship music, but this sickly-sweet, annoying 70’s soft rock-sounding mush isn’t it.)

But I digress.

What is it about SMM that makes it different from all the other churches I’ve attended and tested out over the past few years? Quite simply, its unique ability to retain both the reverence and sacredness of the Mass while worshipping in a decidedly informal location – in this case, a local elementary school’s gym. You see, SMM doesn’t have a building – in fact, they haven’t even broken ground for one yet – and hence have been meeting at the Gateway Pointe Elementary School gymnasium. There on any given weekend you will find hundreds of Catholics (and, it appears, no small amount of non-Catholics) gathered together in chairs arranged on the basketball court, in the bleachers, standing by the walls, or just sitting on the floor to hear the Gospel preached and to receive Our Lord’s Most Blessed Body and Blood, under the most humble of circumstances.

On a small stage are the necessary accoutrements for worship – a portable altar and lectern, some lampstands for candles, a couple of panels decorated with the color of the church season to give it a little intimacy and sense of sanctuary – but that’s it. They do have a church band (piano, bass, drums, guitar) that provides the music, but it’s not overly intrusive and in your face like the Music Nazi and her gang over at St. Anne Catholic Church. Everything is orderly and nicely done, allowing the focus to be on Christ Jesus and leaving plenty of wiggle room for the Holy Spirit to do it’s job.

More than anything, what SMM offers is an understated yet accessible and reverent means of worshipping God in the Roman Catholic tradition. They’ve obviously done a lot of thinking about how to keep the proceedings formal in such an informal location. There are friendly ushers to find seats for people, a welcome desk staffed before and after Mass to provide information to visitors who might stop by, and high on the list (at least for me), music during the Eucharist that allows for meditation and contemplation while the rest of the congregation is receiving. While there are some who leave after receiving, it’s not the mad dash you see over at St. Anne, and I find that refreshing.

A couple of other observations: Fr. Greg is a good preacher who speaks without notes, the parish sings the Lord’s Prayer (kind of interesting), and when Fr. Greg bows during the consecration of the elements the rest of the congregation joins him. All a nice touch, I think.

Anyways, so that’s where I’ll be worshipping this Lent. Where it goes from there I’ll leave that in the hands of Our Lady, whose intercessions on my behalf I believe have led me to this latest stop on the road to somewhere.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:09 | Comments Off on Church Without A Church
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