Mystery Worshipper: Paterfamilias
Church: St Anthony
Location: Tigard, Oregon, USA
Date of visit: Saturday, 19 March 2022, 9:00am
A straightforward modern structure. The reserved Sacrament is immediately behind the altar, with a large crucifix against the wall. To the right of the altar is the ambo, to the left the music area; judging from the number of chairs there, the parish has a sizeable choral program. There are imposing Stations of the Cross on either side of the nave. There is a balcony in the rear of the church, not used in this service.
It seems to be quite an active community. In addition to the usual faith formation activities, they foster small church communities, in which parishioners can meet with other parishioners of like interests. They sponsor classes in English in cooperation with Tigard United Methodist Church. They work with the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good to, in the words of their website, 'develop the diverse voices of our community, building relationships across religion, race, class and neighborhood' lines. They collaborate with the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center to sponsor Women's Justice Circles; one current circle is currently addressing the local need for Spanish-language mental health services. The parish cemetery dates from 1890, and their K-8 school is celebrating its 100th anniversary. They are currently fund raising for new facilities for the school's K-5th grades. They have six weekend masses, four in English, one in Spanish, and one in Vietnamese. The mass I attended was bilingual, and I noticed in their bulletin that some of their Holy Week services will be trilingual.
Tigard is a city in northwestern Oregon and is part of the Portland metro area. It is named in honor of one of the families who first settled the area and built many of the city's original structures. Each summer, the city hosts a Festival of Balloons. The area immediately around the church is mixed use, with single-family homes, small businesses and restaurants in the vicinity.
The pastor of the parish celebrated and preached, assisted by a deacon vested in dalmatic. There were two lectors, one reading the first lesson and the first half of the intercessions in English, the other the second lesson and second half of the intercessions in Spanish. There was a lay eucharistic minister, and a contemporary music ensemble of seven.
What was the name of the service?Mass for the Solemnity of St Joseph.
How full was the building?
Perhaps 30 per cent full. The congregation were racially and generationally diverse.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
When we first walked in, the music group were rehearsing. When they finished their preparations, the atmosphere was quiet and reverent.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The pianist and head of the music group said, 'Good morning, and welcome to St Anthony.' He then invited us to stand and join in the opening hymn. Following the hymn, the pastor began with the usual 'In the name of the Father ...'
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. I would imagine that trying to stock the pews with the worship and musical materials needed by the three language groups in the parish would be quite a challenge; at least for this service, all hymn texts were projected onto the side walls of the sanctuary.
What musical instruments were played?
Baby grand piano and acoustic guitar. A group of five singers led congregational singing in English and Spanish.
Did anything distract you?
Not in a bad way, but I was fascinated to watch the celebrant move back and forth between his English and Spanish missals.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A formal liturgy, celebrated with reverence. The music was all contemporary. The pianist served as cantor for the responsorial psalm, gospel acclamation, and communion psalm. Spanish and English were used equally; for example, the first part of the eucharistic prayer (through the memorial acclamation) was in Spanish, the second part in English.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes — five in English, then three in Spanish.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 — The pastor is a very accomplished speaker who delivered a very polished sermon.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Let us never fail to honor the profound faith of St Joseph. His love for Mary, and God, was strong; he was not going to shame Mary. He always respected the life Jesus was called to lead. The gospels do not record a single word of Joseph — his actions speak louder than words.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I appreciated the pastor's homily. And this community obviously has experience in preparing bilingual liturgies — they have a considerable repertoire of music, for example, that mixes English and Spanish texts.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing hellish, but it was a bit odd to see the white vestments of priest and deacon against the purple altar frontal.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was attending with my brother-in-law, and several parishioners stopped to speak with him, and to welcome me to Oregon and to the church.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We were meeting other family members for brunch after the mass, so we did not stay. I did stick my head in, though, and they were serving cookies, coffee and juice.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 — This looks like a very vibrant parish community, with good preaching and good music (the pianist was superb).
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 celebrant juggling his two missals.