The Great 2009 Church Search

We went to church for the first time in weeks, our first stop on the search for a new church.

You would think we would just go to the nearest Catholic church, but then you wouldn’t know the Twin Cities very well. Today we went to a church that is about 3 miles away from our home, which means we opted not to attend two or three Catholic churches that are closer. In our old parish neighborhood there were maybe 6 large parishes in a 3-mile radius. If you listen to Prairie Home Companion, as I do (and did today), you might think that all Minnesotans are Lutherans, but there are also a *lot* of Catholics. And back when there were immigrants from Europe of many different nationalities arriving here, each group built their own Catholic church.

In short, you don’t have to be a persnickity “church shopper” to find yourself choosing a church.

Today’s church’s patron saint was a skeptic, which makes it a nice choice. It’s also in a lovely area right behind a co-op to which we still have a membership from our pre-kid days, near a Waldorf-y toy store, coffee shops, a bread bakery (as opposed to a sweets bakery), and other nice things.

Also on the plus side, I saw a lot of kids. I have learned and changed my views on things like Sunday school, and now think kids should be celebrating Mass with parents, and I’m glad this parish also takes that view. I particularly noticed a lot of middle school kids, which we are always happy to see. Sometimes it seems that by the time kids reach middle school families have moved to the suburbs, and city neighborhoods are full of babies.

The homily was fine — nothing too challenging or profound, but nothing insulting either, which is a good start. The pastor told a Buddhist story relating to the homily’s theme of service, so I took that as a sign of relative open-mindedness.

On the downside: first, the church has been remodeled, and not all that well. The outside is lovely, but the inside feels kind of like an airplane hangar. All hard, cold, new surfaces, no color. The arrangement of the ambo (pulpit) and altar is odd — it took a long time for me to figure out how the church was oriented. It doesn’t add much to the experience of the liturgy, and of course I am spoiled by having attended an absolutely gorgeous church with a deep sense of (regional and salvation) history etched into every post, buttress, and tiny chapel.

Another downside: the church is affiliated with a school. My experience and that many friends is that if your children do not attend the parish school, it is nearly impossible to get involved in parish life. I say this as one who was co-chair of our parish council, and I am backed up by two other women who were co-chairs of our parish council — that is, it was not for lack of effort on our part that we found it hard to get connected.

The music: well, let’s just say that church music generally requires lowering the bar a bit, unless maybe you are a Presbyterian or Methodist with a paid choir (as many are around here). Still, while I’m no traditionalist, my old parish did give me a taste for a little more variety, and not *all* modern hymns.

So, we’ll go back next week and check out their Donut Sunday. Then I think we’ll try a couple of other churches. And maybe we’ll pop into our old church now and again. I would love to be settled into our house and a church before Christmas, but something tells me we will still be pilgrims on December 25th.

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5 Comments

Filed under I'm Catholic Why?

5 responses to “The Great 2009 Church Search

  1. I know how you feel. I spent a long time trying to find a church that would give me the experience I wanted. I did find in the end that services held on fold-out chairs in the tea room out back, no music, often not even any homily, were more spiritually fulfilling. And now I’ve come to a religiosity that doesn’t give me any of the experiences I was seeking, but I am more focused on my faith. But I still wish for the choir, the historic wooden beams, the sense of holiness in a space.

    I really hope you find the right church for your family – especially in regards to that spirit of community which is so very important as a support and a vehicle of practical worship.

  2. Andrea

    Good luck Shaun! You are so lucky to have such a variety of choices. We are on a similar search, but for different reasons.

  3. Good luck with that. It is hard. We didn’t find a temple we liked the whole time we lived in Los Angeles. Not that there are great Temples in L.A. but we didn’t live near any that really worked for us.

    But the ONE and only Reform Temple in S.B. is great!

  4. lapazfarm

    I know what you mean about churches associated with schools. We’ve been in that situation before and since the kids did not attend the school they never really did make friends there and neither did we. It was pretty cliquish. But then again, here all the kids go to the one local public school so we are in sort of the same boat. No Catholic homeschoolers in the immediate area that I can find. But since there are no other Catholic churches nearby we have no choice. Sometimes community building is hard!

  5. I’m still looking, and it’s been 2 years now. I miss our old church, it had everything I like about church: stained glass, old wood, people nice to little kids, a kids choir, old hymns, no guitars or mimes or hand clapping…stuff like that.

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