Liturgy as tourist attraction
Meghan Barr of the online Huffington Post (HuffPo) offered up an intriguing feature from New York: black churches in Harlem drawing tourists to hear their gospel music. In some churches, parishioners have been outnumbered more than four-to-one by white faces in the pews.
One plus is financial: visitors supplement the regular collection.
However, some believers are bothered by the bad manners during Sunday worship. "I understand that you're visiting and you want to have a memory of it," said one parishioner to an insistent attempt at video capture on a cell phone. "But when we ask you to stop and you continue to do so after the fact, that's disrespectful."
Did you know that some tour companies bringing their clients to New York provide listings of gospel churches? One operator charges $55 for a Sunday tour of Harlem churches. Rev. Gregory Robeson Smith, pastor of Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, won't cooperate with such companies. He told the HuffPo, "I refuse to commercialize the church worship experience. You don't pay people to experience the Lord, to come and pray. I think that's unconscionable." To him, visitors are not tourists but part of his "international congregation."
From the other side, Parisian Celeste Lejeune was unaware of the history of Mother AME Zion, a role that goes back to abolitionist roots in the 19th century. "I would like to just hear voices of people who live in Harlem, and see the atmosphere. We don't have music like this in France."
Let's leave the last word with Dabney Montgomery, a World War II veteran, civil rights activist, and parishioner: "In listening to the gospel, they get something out that they didn't expect. The word of God."
Tsunami remembrance and prayer
A significant anniversary in Japan, March 11, was marked by prayer, including ecumenical gatherings of Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants. In Tokyo, Archbishop Takeo Okada commented, "I suspect the disaster was a great trial of faith even for us Christians."
At the Motoderkoji Cathedral in Sendai City, the diocese that felt the brunt of both tsunami and nuclear damage, Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga preached: "Despite the year that has passed, we still sometimes feel powerless in our work as we recall the delays in the arrival of aid; the mountains of rubble; the troubles caused by the accident at the nuclear reactor, to which there is no resolution in sight. It shows that we must come profoundly to terms with those words of Jesus: 'Take heed! Keep alert!' Let us all indeed take heed, lest our hearts grow dull."
The moment of the 2011 earthquake was 2:46 p.m. local time; at that precise time this year, church bells across the nation rang as worshipers prayed silently.
No coral for this renovation
More than three centuries ago, Augustinian friars in mission territory built a Baroque-style place of worship. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Paoay, Philippines, church is getting a restoration. Coral was part of the original construction, but because of environmental laws, it cannot be used for new building projects, nor for renovations of a previous era.
(Source: Leilani Adriano,
Larry Heiman, CPPS, rest in peace
Another fine liturgical musician of the conciliar era has passed on. This past February, Father Larry Heiman, founding director of the Rensellaer Program of Church Music and Liturgy, died at age 93.
Hong Kong needs English Masses
The Chinese diocese of Hong Kong tallies more than a half-million Catholics, and an estimated one-third are non-Chinese: immigrants and guest workers, plus tourists. So every parish, according to Hong Kong's bishop, Cardinal John Tong Hon, should offer one English-language Mass each Sunday. Outlining his four-point pastoral plan for his diocese, Cardinal Hon elaborated on the worship needs for non-Chinese believers: "The presence of migrants challenges the responsibility of believers as individuals and as a community. An effective way is for our parishes to schedule at least one English Mass within the regular Sunday Mass schedule so that migrants can gather for worship."
One Father, two prayers
You think we English-language Catholics have it tough. Pray for the Dutch in the Netherlands and Belgium. They aren't even on the same page with the Our Father. Cardinal Wim Eijk of Utrecht is concerned. "There are several differences between northern and southern Dutch. So it is unlikely we'll achieve a unified version of the Our Father."
According to The Tablet, the English translations of the competing Dutch versions are as follows: In Belgium, "Our Father, who art in the heavens, hallowed be thy name," and in the Netherlands, "Our Father, who art in heaven, may your name be hallowed."
The curia, of course, is going to insist on one version. The Germans pushed back on the funeral rites the other year. Maybe something will catch on in the Low Countries. ML