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Spirit, San Jose, California, USA
Spirit, San Jose, California, USA.
Diocese of San
This church was completed in 1966. It is like an auditorium.
In the front is a free-standing altar. The congregation sits
in three sections: one section looks at the front of the altar;
two sections look at the sides of the altar and toward one
another. On the south wall is a depiction of Pentecost; on
the north wall a three-dimensional presentation of the resurrected
Christ. On the east wall behind the altar are two projection
screens and Christian symbols carved out of wood. Hanging
from the ceiling are two projectors, a row of fans, and lights.
The parish was established in 1963. It seems to be a lively
and thoughtful Christian community. They have a school that
was opened in 2000 which apparently goes up to the eighth
grade. They support a church in Nicaragua, financially and
with practical hands-on help. They also sponsor blood drives
and outreach projects to a hospital. They offer instruction
in faith. There are programs for children, youth, young adults,
widows, and widowers.
San Jose, at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, is called
the capital of Silicon Valley. With a population of about
971,000, it is the third-largest city in California. The church
is located in the Almaden Valley in the southeast part of
San Jose, at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is in
a suburban, residential area of a wide ethnic makeup.
Guest celebrant and preacher was the Revd Msgr J. Patrick
Browne, pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of St Joseph. Assisting
was the Revd Joe Kim, parochial vicar. The lay participants
The date & time:
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 15, 2012, 11.30am.
[Editor's note: This report was filed August 15, 2012.]
What was the name of
How full was the building?
About three-quarters full; I estimate 200 people. Considering
that this congregation offers five masses on a weekend, they
seem to have good attendance at their services.
Did anyone welcome you
A person standing at one of the entrances said, "Good
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
The two singers and the pianist practiced the songs for the
service. There was quiet conversation among small groups.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
No books. All the texts of the songs were projected onto the
two screens (without melody notes, so there was no possibility
of participating in the singing).
What musical instruments
Did anything distract
I couldn't shake off the feeling of being in an auditorium
and not in a church. There was no focal point for the eyes,
no sacred atmosphere. The microphone was terrible. Occasionally,
it sounded as though the celebrant/preacher were talking from
the bottom of a well. There was also a steady stream of latecomers,
which was surprising considering the starting time.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The worship was liturgical but low key (for example, there
was no bell-ringing at the words of institution). The music
of the liturgy and hymns belonged to the category of contemporary
worship songs. The monsignor gave introductions to the readings,
providing background information. At the collection, the congregation
went to the altar to place their offerings in large baskets.
The new English translation of the mass was a bit unfamiliar
in spots, but I felt that phrases such as "consubstantial
with the Father" in the Nicene Creed promoted a truer
understanding of the tenets of Christian belief than do some
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
7 The monsignor spoke in a deliberate manner, giving
his listeners time to take in what he was saying, so that I
was able to write down every aspect of his message. The sermon
presented a solid biblical message. Because he followed his
notes carefully, his delivery was perhaps not lively, but he
avoided rambling, which I appreciated.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The sermon was based on Mark 6:7-13 (Jesus sends out the Twelve).
Being a Christian does not just mean being nice, but it means
being representatives of the kingdom of God. God is in charge;
the world is therefore destined for transformation. The first
disciples made themselves vulnerable, becoming needy people,
dependent upon charity. This raises the question for us today:
how do we learn to proclaim the kingdom of God? What is our
vision of a world in which God is in charge? God reaches out
to people and transforms them by revealing his care, compassion
and unconditional love. Do we pay attention to what God is
doing? What would it take to make the kingdom of God a reality?
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The heavenly moment in this service was the Agnus Dei, at
which a young girl was the lead singer. It was an enchanting
combination of a pure voice and an effective musical arrangement.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
According to what I was told, this congregation never sings
traditional hymns. If I could never again sing the immortal
hymns of Christendom, I would undoubtedly be in "the
other place." I enjoy contemporary Christian songs if
they have musical integrity. But the melodies we sang today
stood only as a contrast to how precious good hymns really
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
At the end of the service there was a unique feature: a four-minute
catechetical lesson by "Father Joe" (the parochial
vicar) that was lively, instructive and humorous. There were
seven exits on three sides, so there was no true "back
of the church." The congregation dispersed in all directions;
a few were seated or kneeling, engrossed in prayer. By the
time I headed toward an exit, there was no one in the church
to take notice of anyone looking lost.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
No after-service coffee.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
6 The congregation appear to have a lot to offer, so
that there are undoubtedly many possibilities of being active
and experiencing fellowship. Although I am not Roman Catholic,
I appreciate that the Catholic Church preserves the Christian
faith in its fullness from generation to generation. But on
the other hand, I cannot visualize feeling at home in this
auditorium church, in which traditional hymnody has no place.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
It did, because I could identify with the biblical orientation
of the service.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
"Consubstantial with the Father." The phrase conveys
the message that we are talking about a mystery; it challenges
the congregation to learn why Jesus is talked about in this
precise way. It runs counter to the Protestant tendency toward
oversimplification, trying to make every aspect of the faith
comprehensible for our small human minds.
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