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 that 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 remained anonymous.
What was the name of the service?Mass.
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 personally?
A person standing at one of the entrances said, "Good morning!"
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 were played?
Did anything distract you?
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 looser translations. 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.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
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 are.
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 another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
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."