Mystery Worshipper: Paterfamilias
Church: St Jude
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Date of visit: Saturday, 9 July 2022, 4:00pm
The building, designed in anticipation of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) seats 850. Ground was broken in 1962, and the first Mass celebrated in November 1963. The entry and narthex are underneath a steel bell tower with three bells. The church was designed with a free-standing altar, and no side altars. The reserved sacrament is on an altar in a niche in the wall, behind the sanctuary area. There is an imposing brick interior, and the space is nearly as wide as it is long, which, combined with the absence of any columns, gives every congregant a clear view of the altar. The stations of the cross are 14 simple black crosses, seven on each side of the nave, without any representational art work. At the 24th annual North American Liturgical Week in 1983, RRTL Architects of St Paul, Minnesota, was given the Lecraro Award for ‘excellence in adapting church design to liturgical concept.’
The parish was formed in 1946. There are pro-life groups, social groups for senior citizens and young adults, extensive faith formation activities, a number of hunger ministries, a twice-a-year blood drive, and a prison/jail ministry. Along with three other parishes on the north side of Grand Rapids, they sponsor All Saints Academy, a school serving children pre-K through grade 8. There are three Masses each weekend.
In 1972, a family donated 17 acres of land to the church, ‘in appreciation to St. Jude parish for its contribution to the community,’ giving the parish a campus of 26 acres. So the immediate neighborhood belongs pretty much entirely to St Jude’s.
The pastor of the parish presided and preached. A permanent deacon read the Gospel, and led the intercessions. Music was provided by an organist/pianist and cantor. There was a crucifer in the procession, two lay eucharistic ministers, and four ushers. Priest and deacon were the only ones vested, in chasuble and dalmatic respectively.
What was the name of the service?Mass
How full was the building?
About two-thirds full. The congregation was largely, but not exclusively, Caucasian.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The pastor of the parish was in the narthex, warmly greeting worshippers as they arrived.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very much so.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverent.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The cantor asked the congregation to stand and sing the opening hymn. After the hymn, the celebrant began with ‘Good afternoon,’ and the congregation responded, ‘Good afternoon, Father.’ Then the usual ‘In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Gather, third edition (2011), a combination service book and hymnal published by GIA Publications of Chicago.
What musical instruments were played?
A serviceable electronic organ, and a baby grand piano, primarily the former.
Did anything distract you?
The chasuble and dalmatic worn by the priest and deacon were of different designs, and fairly different shades of green. I tried not to look.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A formal Novus Order liturgy, thankfully without interpolations from the celebrant. The dialogue between celebrant and congregation before the proper preface was chanted, as was the doxology to the eucharistic prayer. Otherwise, no fuss, no muss. I was reminded that Covid is still with us: there was no offertory collection (we placed our offerings in a basket at the entrance of the church), several in the congregation were wearing masks, and communion was in one kind only.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 — The pastor preached from the ambo, apparently reading from a prepared text. This is an 8 as there wasn't quite enough content to fill 19 minutes.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Gospel of the day was the parable of the Good Samaritan as found in Luke's Gospel (10:25-37). He told us that this parable was unforgettable, and probably the most famous of Jesus’ parables (famous or not, he proceeded to remind us of the story). Christ took a risk for all of us, and gave up his life. Look at the Samaritan in the parable – he shared all he had. He noted the animosity between Samaritans and Jews in Jesus’ time; Samaritans were rejected and marginalized in society. Yet Jesus holds the Samaritan up as a role model. We should be as generous and sensitive as the Samaritan.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I was fascinated by the design of this worship space. And this congregation sings better than most Catholic congregations, at least in Western Michigan.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The approach to music in this service. There was no hymn board or service leaflet. The four hymns were announced by the cantor. Mass parts were from Marty Haugen's ubiquitous ‘Mass of Creation’. I've been to enough Catholic Masses to know this setting, but a stranger visiting would have had no idea. Worse, though, we sang as few verses as possible of every hymn, the bare minimum to accompany entrance and retiring processions, preparation of the altar, and communion.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A number of folks made their exit before the end of the final hymn (of which we sang only two verses). In the narthex the pastor engaged a number of his congregation in conversation.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 — The approach to congregational singing is not what I want to see in a parish’s worship. But it was summer, and a Saturday afternoon. I might be happier with a Sunday morning Mass with choir in the fall. And I love the space.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The interior of this historic parish, anticipating so much of what the Second Vatican Council encouraged in Catholic worship several years later.