There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. (I Corinthians 12:4-6 via USCCB)
Nearly 7 years ago, our small parish merged with a larger one in the same zip code. The two parishes became one. There are still two churches (which one former pastor referred to as “worship sites,” and I’m thankful that term never really caught on). The office is at one church, and the priests live in the friary at the other one.
A lot of work has been done to help the people from the two parishes worship, work and enjoy life together as one. All in all, I thought we were doing pretty well.
Until this morning.
For nearly 7 years, the daily Masses had been held at the smaller of the two churches, which makes sense from the practical perspective of having to heat or cool a larger building to house at most 50 people for 45 minutes a day. I guess there has been some behind-the-scenes complaining, because two weeks ago it was announced that three days a week, daily Mass would be held at the larger church.
They do have a chapel, and some work was done to spiff it up so that it would be ready for daily Mass.
I liked the idea in some ways, because I can walk to the larger church. Walking is good. Exercise is good. I am Walking With Mary This May as part of author Denise Bossert’s event celebrating the Visitation, so this walk also helps me reach my mileage goal.
So I walked to Mass this morning and found lots of cars in the parking lot and a full chapel, 10 minutes before Mass. The next 10 minutes were spent in a “bucket brigade” of sorts, but with chairs the maintenance man was grabbing from the choir area of the church to create a new front row of chairs in the chapel. As it was, the 90-year-old altar server didn’t have a chair, and he was sort of sitting on the radiator, and he and I played this little game of “chicken” for a bit. I didn’t want him to stand because the guy is 90 and, well, he doesn’t look too healthy. He didn’t want me to stand because he is a gentleman. Finally I let him win.
When Mass was over, I heard many people saying to Father, “Thank you for bringing Mass back here.”
Which is fine.
But there were quite a few people at Mass today who don’t come to daily Mass when it’s at the other church. I don’t know everyone’s name at Mass, but you come to recognize faces and, of course, everyone has their “spot.”
So there were people who came today but who don’t come when Mass is in the other church, two and a half miles away.
OK, I thought. Maybe they walked here, like me.
But I was the only one who left the parking lot on foot.
Meanwhile, there were those three or four people who walk to Mass every day when it’s at the other church. I suspect that some of them don’t drive at all. And now they’re not going to get there.
If you’re driving anyway, why is it such a big deal to drive to the other church? It’s not far away. It’s only 5 more minutes in the car. From my house, I can drive to the small church faster than I can walk to the big church–even if I get stuck at both traffic lights. (And I walked that mile in 12 minutes today).
No matter which church Mass is in, it’s the same Mass. It’s the same Gospel. It’s the same prayers. It’s the same Jesus. It’s the same Eucharist.
That quote from Corinthians, up at the top? May I continue it? “There are different buildings, but the same worship.”
It shouldn’t be all about the territory.
If it is, we’re doing it wrong.