Sunday, February 25, 2007

Church #31: Saint Veronica

1. Who attended? Bradley & Erica.

How welcome did you feel at this church?
1: I was so uncomfortable and/or offended that I did not stay to the end of services.
10: This church was welcoming and thought-provoking. I would recommend that others experience this church.

BRADLEY: 5, this was an alright church.

3. Picture(s) of the church
(Just got the one, sorry.)

4. Name/location of the church:
Saint Veronica Parish
4473 Mr. Carmel-Tobasco Road
Cincinnati, OH 45244 (must have the www)

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
Nope, although we've had requests to go to a Catholic church.

6. Time/duration of services:

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?
Catholic-- our first.

8. Who did you meet?

9. If applicable, scans of handouts, tracts, etc

10. Church Hopper’s personal experience with the church, additional details:

ERICA: I was the one who'd been putting off Catholic churches for a while, out of apprehension. Bradley didn't seem to care either way, but I was nervous this morning (though still excited).

Unfortunately my apprehensions were realized: I did not, at any point, feel as if I were supposed to be there. (And I'm sure many of my critics will jump on that statement and point out that I really wasn't supposed to be there at all. Still.)

When we first entered the parish, I was immediately taken with how dark it was in the auditorium. Pretty stained glass, a large, open room... but incredibly dark. In fact, a light burnt out during our services. We took a seat to the middle-right, toward the front, and sat quietly because it seemed most people who were already there were praying. No groups of people welcoming one another, catching up from last week, exchanging pleasantries. Before Church Hop started I would have thought this was the norm, but by now I've come to expect a church body to be active, social, buzzing. But not here, so we clasped our hands and waited for services to start.

...And start they did, without missing a beat. No "good morning," no "what a fine Sunday," no church announcements. Nada. The pastor started speaking, the small choir sang a hymn, and services were up and running.

We had no program-- no one did, that I could see. We followed the stand-up sit-down say-this say-that as best as we could (what did Pastor Zorn call that-- liturgy?), but without programs we were unable to join in to the majority of the congregational responses. These are things you learn when you grow up in the church, I guess. This is the reason you go through a process of having a sponsor and learning the faith and rituals before you become an active member of the Catholic church. Please, don't think I'm criticizing, because I'm trying to realize these things about the church and its sects-- it's just that it was clear this was not a church that would embrace being "hopped."

My discomfort continued. No one in the congregation smiled... ever? Not at children, not at one another, not when new members were being accepted into the church. It was all very serious, which goes against my tendency to show love and devotion through energy and enthusiasm. I couldn't understand most of what the pastor said or how the congregation responded-- it was so ingrained in them that it was all mumbled and even the improvisor in me was unable to fake it.

And of course there was communion, which I will probably always struggle with. When we left we were handed the church info that I have scanned and posted, but by then I was thinking of home. Bradley seemed surprised at my discomfort-- this will most likely be a case of varying opinions on the church.

I'd just like to throw out there that I'm sorry to the Catholics that read this, especially my friends. I tried and we will almost certainly visit other parishes to get more opinions, but Catholicism isn't what I'm looking for and I clearly am not what Catholicism is looking for.

Brad: Aside from Church Hop, I've never really had much experience with Catholicism in my life. I'd never been to a Catholic church, attended anything related, or read anything of value on it. This really put Erica and I at a loss when we went in, because of the customs and things they had to do. It was very awkward being the only few people that didn't know the prayers when certain things happened. But, this is why we do Church Hop I guess, to help ease that gap with learning new customs.

When Erica and I walked into the church, it was extremely quite. I mean, there were more than 100 people in here, and you could hear a pin drop. That was another new thing for me, because I usually point out that a church has all its members congregating in the lobby before the service starts. Also, I noticed that some people would bow on one knee before sitting down, if anyone can explain what that symbolizes, please let me know.

The service itself was all very intimidating. I really didn't know what was going to happen next, and since there is no real "guide to service", I was very confused a lot. I was on my feet, and back to sitting down very often, which normally dosen't bother me, but trying to keep up with the people around me proved harder than it looked. Most of it seemed pretty obvious, but it took some getting used to.

The priest was also something I was not used too. I could tell he was extremely familiar with what he had to do, knew where everything was. While it was hard to follow his words, it all seemed to wrap up in a nice package of what the message was. I guess you could say it looses personal touch in such heavy tradition. Normally I like tradition in churches, but this was a little too much for me. That being said, I can see why people would go here, but it's just not for me.


Kate said...

I'm sad that this is the first Catholic church you visited!! It sounds like even I (a long time Catholic) would have felt uncomfortable here. Being a military kid, I went to a lot of different Catholic churches growing up. I can tell you that while the mass settings remain the same, Catholic communities vary SO MUCH, just other Christian communities that share a denominational title might vary among congregation. It's true that many of our churches are not so great about providing explanations for the sit/stand/kneel deal and programs to follow prayers, a page we could certainly take from the book of other Christian communities. A possible explanation for the weird lighting - We just started Lent, and our churches usually take on a more somber look -- decorations are purposely stripped, music is toned way down and aesthetics are overall minimal to set a particular mood that prepares us for Easter.

I'm still new to this area, so I'm not familiar with all the local Catholic churches and their environments and couldn't recommend a better one (I'll see if I can find any info, though). I really hope you guys do hop another Catholic church sometime, because this one is not representative of our whole sect! Some of the more progressive (i.e. younger) communities have enthusiastic congregations, really good live music, a time where people are encouraged to turn and greet those around them, coffee/doughnut socializing time afterwards, recognition of new people/birthdays/anniversaries/special events and other more inviting activities. A lot of older parishes like a more somber, formal mass, but the Catholic church is definitely growing to accommodate the younger crowd and emulate the enthusiasm of our Protestant cousins.

"I tried and we will almost certainly visit other parishes to get more opinions, but Catholicism isn't what I'm looking for and I clearly am not what Catholicism is looking for."

I'm definitely not offended by anything you've said (I've heard far worse, and you've been very respectful in voicing your opinion). Catholicism doesn't fit everyone, but I hope you won't judge the entire faith on this one experience. It doesn't seem like you've ruled out other denominations based on one community. Your church hop project is really, really interesting, and I'm impressed by the open-mindedness you must have when visiting so many different faith communities.

This is incredibly long, so I'll go ahead and stop now:)

Eric Hilliard said...

I just wanted to drop a line and say thanks for your blog. It's great to hear about your experiences at the various churches you visit.

luckeyfrog said...

I do know that not all Catholic churches are this unwelcoming- one of the friends my family goes camping with each year has a Catholic member, and occasionally we'll visit a Catholic church with them. Still, even as a Lutheran (which isn't THAT far off of Catholicism, in some ways), there are times when I feel awkward. As a hint, sometimes the beginning of the hymnal will have the basic liturgy (before the songs), and that might help you follow along. But it is true that lots of things, like the creed, the Lord's prayer, etc. are things that you tend to memorize being raised and Confirmed in the Church. I also didn't even think about the fact that Lent has started and that might've changed things. In some congregations, they try to adjust lighting, you're not allowed to sing or say "alleluia," the colors around the sanctuary are changed, and some of the music of the service may be taken out. It's definitely supposed to feel a bit more somber, and some churches do more or less with that. That's something to keep in mind not only for this church, but for the next few (until Easter).

Anyway, Catholicism may not fit for you; I know few people that convert to Catholicism (especially not from another denomination of Christian). Still, it's a good experience, I think, and it'll be interesting to hear/read Bradley's spin on things.

Jason Strickling said...

I'm sure you get requests all the time to visit churches, and for sure a person could spend a lifetime visiting all of them in Southern Ohio alone. But I'm still going to ask--if you get a chance, I have two hop-worthy candidates:

Cornerstone Community Church
Delaware, OH


Journey Church
West Chester/Middletown, OH

Forgive me if you've already visited either of these locations. I'm new to your site and haven't yet read about all your adventures. I will tell you that my brother-in-law is a pastor at one of these churches, but I won't say which one...

Happy hopping.

Lewis said...

Brad, the falling onto one knee thing is called genuflection and it is an act of reverence. Here's the wikipedia page.

Kelly said...

The reason you are supposed to be quiet in most Catholic churches is because of the tabernacle in the alter- the home of the Communion bread (and wine, maybe.. I'm not sure on that one). It's kind of a respect thing. Plus people like to pray when they first get there. Catholic masses held outside of a catholic church (like on college campuses or gyms) typically are cool with talking.

Overall, not surprised with your reactions. As a Catholic, I have some issues with it myself, but since it's where I grew up, I feel very comfortable. I tend to feel really awkward at other churches, especially those where people seem over-the-top happy to the point of where it feels fake... but that's a whole other story.