When we are away from home and need to find a place to go to Mass, MassTimes.org by phone is my normal method. Often this is because we are on a day trip around Orlando and just want to find the closest parish to wherever we happen to be. I named this “Mass Roulette” since you just have no idea what parish you might wind up with.
Yesterday Mass Roulette provided another interesting example that was even mostly positive.
This one like so many parishes built since the 70’s is the auditorium style clamshell. Certainly not my favorite style as it to me shouts secular and not sacred. The art is typical of seventies abstract trends, but there was also a very large wooden crucifix in the sanctuary. Unfortunately I had to play Where’s Waldo with the Tabernacle and I did not win. I now suspect it was possibly in the windowed-off chapel area. Still this is the first parish of this style that I’ve encountered that actually had a pipe organ and that the pipe organ was used. Mostly I was also pretty happy with the hymn selection. I was especially joyful with the selection of the recessional hymn which was appropriately – Faith of our Fathers. A hymn that I have heard only one other time during Mass in the last 15 years. Kind of a slam dunk for Father’s Day, but political correctness has probably censored it from most parishes or the lyrics have been modified (hich I have heard anectoctal evidence of). Not that I think any hymn is particullarly mandated for feast days or nods to the secular calendar such as Father’s Day. Contrary to popular understanding Ashes is not mandatory for Ash Wednesday, and for me not even welcomed in the slightest. Regardless I was thrilled and even a little choked up to be singing this hymn.
One trend I have noticed in the limited amount of Orlando area parishes I have been to is the use of projectors onto screens on either side of the sanctuary. A practice I have not been thrilled about generally and in one parish during Mass the screen fell back to the Powerpoint program. What surprised me is that I found that this parish incorporated this in a way that to me seemed more organic. Usually when I see this it is an afterthought with projections onto blank walls ending up looking rather tacky. Here there were two screens on either side suspended from the walls. The effect was rather clever visually. What also was done differently is that the screens were used throughout the Mass, while at time defaulting to a more generic view of landscape.
During the readings a graphic depicting the book of the Bible was used, plus of course the various texts were displayed of the Gloria, Nicene Creed, etc. The part in the Nicene Creed where you are suppose to bow was even annotated for that liturgical posture. Their use of these screens were rather thoughtful and the information presented rather tastefully. This does not mean that I believe this practice in general should be adopted. There are so many ways this can go wrong and I have seen some of them. For one you really need someone with solid design sense to make the slides. Imagine slides during Mass using Comic Sans? (Yeah I know the Vatican used that font for the ebook commemoration of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). Can you imagine what horrific Powerpoint animations someone might think appropriate via the consecration? Still I found that this parish did manage to find a balance that was that had me not reacting negatively as I have in the past.
Still I find it interesting that they had done all this work visually, yet did not ring the bells during the consecration.
There was one aspect of using screens that really threw me. The clamshell architecture had included a windowed off section separate from the main church. Probably meant for dual use as a chapel and cry room. Because of the placement of the pews in this chapel it would be difficult to view the sanctuary. So they had a video screen playing back the video of the sanctuary. This was really strange to be at Mass and to look over and see people with their attention on the screen in another area instead of towards the altar. Like it was a Mass Multiplex. Kind of like being at a professional sports game and watching the game on your phone instead. I can imagine opening up this chapel to increase seating, but the church was about half-full.
One thing I really loved was the way the Mass was said by the priest. So often you get the feeling as if this is just another recital of Mass. That the Mass had just been set on automatic. The way this priest said Mass really moved me and helped me to concentrate on the realities of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Deacons’s homily similarly moved me with its aspect of personal witness and love of Christ. I also got the feeling by the words he used that he had read Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples.
I already mentioned that the church was about half-full, so of course they had 20 Eucharistic Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC). Yes I counted them since it was rather easy since they were in a double row of people. I could jest that it almost took longer for the EMHCs to receive Communion as it was for them to distribute it. Still it did remind me of a parody I did on the subject.
Something else I found interesting is that they passed out a survey to be completed by the men. It is apparent they are also looking to better reach out to men as one of their outreaches. They even have an online version.