Church #59, St John the Evangelist and St Joseph

Date: 6/22/14

Church name/type: St John the a Evangelist and St Joseph, Roman Catholic

Pastor: most of the mass, including homily, was done by the deacon- Greg Mansfield

Style of worship: Shortened Catholic mass – it was interrupted by a double baptism

Useful takeaways:
I’ll start by describing the church, because I like doing that. This church has so much going on visually, but in a kind of balanced and subtle way. Upon entering and looking around, I noticed the space is tall and white with crests and domes that merge into each other gently at the ceiling. All along the sides of the church there are stained glass windows and raised, painted stations of the cross. If you glance up a little higher you note saint statues perched up of ledges. All around this same area are paintings of saints and biblical scenes. At the front left of the church is a large white PietĂ -esque statue. At the front right is a life-sized, realistically* colored crucifix Jesus. Near the crucifix is a child Jesus statue clothed in a robe and holding an orb. (It is just like one my grandmother used to have in her house for which the robe was cloth material and could be changed! I forgot to note whether this was the case at St’s John/Joseph) Also impressive is the giant pipe organ over the entrance at the back of the church. If I had to guess I’d say it has maybe 200 pipes. Several more saint statues are at the back of the church. Surprisingly, it did not feel the same as the painted color explosion I felt at St Sophia’s, the extremely decorated Orthodox Church. The imagery wasn’t overwhelming and I was truly surprised that so much could fit so unobtrusively into the space.

The sermon was short, I suppose in attempt to make time for the baptism; so short in fact I missed it. I really thought it was a simple intro to something longer, then when church was over I noticed I’d written no sermon notes.

I did make note of a couple of my thoughts on the bible verses. I am finding I do this more often at Catholic churches and I think I can guess why. For one thing the readings are always separate from the sermon, allowing a little time for me to reflect on what I think about them. Another reason may be that the strict formality expected at a Catholic church lends itself to a very clear, crisp enunciation of the verses. A third reason may lie in the dialect at these churches being similar to my own.

This Sunday I was caught by a verse from Deuteronomy. God is talking to the Israelites who are suffering in the wilderness. He says, “I brought you here to test you. To see if you would keep my commandments.” Normally I don’t agree with a sentiment that suggests God plays games with us to make sure we will stay faithful. This time it occurred to me that maybe this verse is about the intersection of suffering and goodness. It’s easier for me to be good when I’m feeling good. If I feel hurt and angry I’m more prone to lashing out at others. This verse conveys the idea to me that we all need to remember to be good when things are bad. God expects us to behave ourselves even when other factors make it hard for us. It’s not easy, but we can’t stop striving for it.

Problems/Improvements:
With so many members, maybe they should staff more than just one door with greeters.

There was no after-church gathering time/coffee-hour.

I had very mixed feelings about the notice in the bulletin for a support group for those with “same-sex attraction”. I’ll talk more about this my next post!

*By realistically colored, I mean Jesus looks like a fair-skinned white person with dark hair.

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