Sunday, March 11, 2007

Church #32: Guardian Angels Church

1. Who attended? Bradley, Erica and guest-hopper Alex!

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 a very different church (then what I'm used to)
ALEX: 5 (about average)

3. Picture(s) of the church

4. Name/location of the church:
Guardian Angels Church
6531 Beechmont Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45230
(I was unable to find a website.)

5. Was it recommended to Church Hop?
No-- we drove past this huge, beautiful church two weeks ago.

6. Time/duration of services:

7. What type of religion did the church cater to?

8. Who did you meet?
Yeah right.

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

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

ERICA: Alright, I was determined to visit another Catholic church (and yes, we'll visit more; pipe down). We passed this hulking beast of a church a couple weeks ago-- this place was seriously gorgeous. (Pardon the picture-- we did the best we could do while driving away from the place.)

My friend Alex volunteered to tag along, and as he was raised Catholic I put him in charge of keeping me from looking like a jackass. Welllll, easier said than done. This time we had sit-stand-KNEEL, which I'd been warned about but had yet to experience. Combine that with pages of memorized material and I was just plain out of my element. ...Even more so than usual.

Let me at least say that this church was flippin' beautiful. The altar was in the center of the huge auditorium, and there was seating all the way around. The stained glass... oh la la. Very gorgeous. The acoustics were great (which helped when you could hear a pin drop before services started, geez).

But as far as "welcome," no, I had the same feeling as with our first Catholic church-- that I had infiltrated. That I was doing something I shouldn't be doing, something that was wrong. That I was unwelcome. I tried my best to keep up, I really did, and luckily people were fairly intent on their own worship, because I must have looked like an idiot. I certainly felt like one.

BRADLEY: First of all, shouts to Alex, who went with us on this church hopping adventure, and who knew a little more about Catholic churches than I did.

Two Catholic churches, a double dose of back to back Catholic action is quite a task. This is clearly something I could not do. It's not that I have such a strong connection to the newer churches, it's just that Catholic churches seem to be steeped in a very thick and deep tradition. (Didn't I say that last time?)

When we came in, we came in on the side of the church, snaking past the pews in the side. I then saw something I had never seen before in a church. There were seating on all four sides of the main stage. People, again, were dead silent. We took our seats without making too much noise and looked around. The pews were old, worn with church going. The church held a lot of people, and it was nearly full. Still, the place was silent.

It hadn't really made the connection until reading Erica's post, that during this time (when I was sitting, looking around) nobody offered a hand as to who they were, or who this church was. Again, I didn't expect it, because it seems like Catholic churches are something you are raised in. While conversions are normal, just tapping into it seems like a task.

The service itself didn't seem that bad. Catholic services (according to Alex) seem to get it done much quicker than any other service we've been to. It was wrapped up in an hour. That's pretty cool, but the whole service I was very lost. Standing up and sitting down. Kneeling, again, something that's not meant to be taped into. So we went through communion, we went through the message and reading. Despite that fact that I didn't know what I was doing, it seemed like a pretty alright church. Very amazing visually too.

ALEX: Hello everyone!!! My name is Alex and I'm a new and visiting face to the Church Hopping Blog as of March 2007. I met Erica about a week ago and became enamored with her and her brother's idea of seeking out new churches to experience and learn from each week.

This week is my first Church Hopping Experience with Erica and Bradley. Although, I've been doing my own sort of low key church hopping since I've moved to Cincinnati in July of 2006, it's great to go with others each week. I've grown up Catholic and underwent the whole baptism, first communion, and conformation ordeals but have found myself drifting away from the strict Catholic teachings and beliefs for a few number of years. Three years ago, while living in Philadelphia and during the in the middle of medical school, I decided to try and attend church more regularly and encourage myself to find opportunities to learn more about my faith. Since relocating to Cincinnati, is my third Catholic church that I've attended (the others being St. Monica - St. George and Xavier's Bellarmine Chapel).

It's hard not to notice the hugeness of Guardian Angels Church when first turning into the parking lot and driving to the rear of the church. Entering however, it becomes apparent that the congregation is just as large. This is the first church I've come across with an alter located centrally to all the seating. The alter was on a square island surrounded on all four sides with this week's church goers. We sat on one of the smaller side wings, which happen to put us facing towards the backs of the priests for this service.

Being the time of Lent, the alter was decorated with the traditional purple runner, and purple candles were being lit as we sat down to enjoy the service (although one young alter boy had to call in for back up in order to light a stubborn candle). There was a grand organ with fully exposed pipes on the traditional front wall, and stained glass adorning both the side walls.

The service was typical of most Catholic churches with singing, praying, reciting, kneeling, and communion. I felt comfortable with the service and thought I could blend in well if need be. I wouldn't say that the service and homely was particularly directed towards any one group of people, nor would I say that it spoke all that directly towards me.

I jumped right into holding hands with Bradley and Erica while reciting The Are Father prayer, which I thought was a Cincinnati thing to do, but wasn't so popular at Guardian Angels. I think that threw Bradley and Erica for a loop and shocked them a bit. Sorry guys! [Note from Erica: It didn't shock me too much, as they held hands at our other Catholic church.]


Kate said...

Talk about scary surprises - everyone (EVERYone. Strangers, too) HUGGED during the sign of peace at my college church. A little weird for me at a first... My uncle visited China for work last year and said they all bow to each other instead of shaking hands :D

The hand holding during Our Father thing does seem to vary by church. I've found that some (old) people are really particular about it and WON'T hold your hand even when it's hovering right over theirs.

P.S. You've inspired me to do a little hopping of my own. While I'm happily settled into Catholicism, I've been visiting some different local ones for a fresh perspective. So thanks, Hoppers.

Eebs said...

Kate-- If you ever want to write up a quick summary (with picture?) of the new churches you're visiting, I'd be happy to post them here. :)

EVE said...

Enough with the Catholic churches! By and large, what you've experienced is how most of them are. The friendly Catholic churches are noteable because they're so rare! It's not that Catholics are's that most are not there out of love but out of duty. They're not looking to connect with visitors 'cause they themselves are counting the minutes until they're free for another week. Added to that is that every service is basically the same as the last one. I know some people LIKE that sort of comfortable repitition but to me it's so stifling and dull!

Oh to understand that God the Father wants a RELATIONSHIP with us...not conformity to rules. Can you imagine a good earthly father insisting on conformity to duties from his kids instead of a nice loving relationship?

I don't mean to sound sharp with Catholics but that kind of service is what drove me out of Catholicism 35 years ago!

Eebs said...

Thank you for your opinions, Eve! I know it seems like we should have had "enough of Catholic churches" but we try not to close our minds to anything. We'll definitely visit a couple more in the future, though maybe we'll take a break until Lent is over, so we can see what a standard trip to the church might look like.

amo said...

I really doubt you will find a Catholic experience different from the last two. I come from a Catholic background but now attend Crossroads in Oakley. The servies are meant to be similar - kind of like how you can go to a McDonald's anywhere on earth and a Big Mac tastes the same. It seems the only distinguishing factor is the priest - it just depends on his personality and what he feels is important in how he can choose to lead his parish.

For instance, my parents go to the ONLY Catholic church I would ever consider attending, however, Its located in Evansville, Indiana. The priest would probably be considered very liberal, which in this case is very good. People talk and greet each other before service - none of that sitting in silence crap. He is message is always full of life and animated - with funny stories and practical applications. He teaches about the Bible and encourages those attending to read as well. He also steps away from the pulpit and preaches from the center aisle - so he is part of the congregation. I have even felt completely comfortable taking communion at his church - even though I am not Catholic - which is a major no-no. He always just says "The table is open for all who believe." nice. His church is located in an urban area, so their vision is very outwardly focused on serving the poor. It feels very Catholic, but you can tell the people WANT to be there, and have a community of people they are doing life with. My mom and dad and very into it - they volunteer with the soup kitchen the church runs, help collect offering, help serve donuts on Sundays, etc. Its very refreshing. I really believe that is how Catholic church is supposed to feel.

I think you are very brave for attending a second Catholic church. You have a great thing going. Keep it up!

Eebs said...

Thank you for your point of view, Amo, I appreciate it. Like I said, we probably WILL try other Catholic churches along the way, but I think we deserve a little break. ;) ...But if we're ever in Evansville, haha...

Anonymous said...

did you ever wonder why that catholic church was full? that should give you pause. perhaps the exercise of 'hopping' exemplifies how you don't know how to worship the true and living God in the way he desires to be approached. just sayin' ... maybe to get you thinkin'

Eebs said...

"Anonymous"-- All I'm going to say is that if you think I'm bashing the Catholic church or its members, then you have not been paying attention and I'm not going to pander to that.

Lewis said...

What you've experienced is what you'll always find at traditional Catholic churches.

I've always believed that the service is structured to lead you to communion with God. The somber, reverent attitude allows you to forget your physical life for a bit and immerse yourself in worship. The "same-ness" of the services make it easy to find that inner peace that allows you to commune with God.

In the end the service is more kin to meditation in my mind.

Eebs said...

Lewis-- I like that perspective. While it definitely makes sense, all I'm trying to say is that it's not for me. :)

Joni Ruhs said...

I happened upon your blog and find this interesting. I am a Christ follower and prefer to commit to one church. I'm curious. Are you looking for a church to attend regularly or just doing a view and review thing?

Its eye opening to hear a visitor's perspective. I think sometimes we who are used to going to church forget what it looks like from "the outside". I think you have the opportunity to inspire churches to look outside themselves. You also have the potential to draw people away from spending time in a church community and taking time to know others and grow in faith. I hope you find what you're looking for. Safe travels!

Eebs said...

Joni, thank you for your support. For more information on the project, I like to point people toward a post I made in November, with my explanation of what the project means to me and why I do it. If this doesn't help, please email me! :)

Jeff said...

Alex, the "Are Father"??? Hard to believe you went through "the whole baptism, first communion, and conformation ordeals" as you put it, and still don't know the name of the most recited prayer in the Catholic Church.