Sunday, April 13, 2014

Not the Catholicism of my youth.

Today, I got to go to Glory to God Old Catholic Church. What was Palm Sunday like with the Old Catholics? Was it what I was expecting? Did I have a good time?


Glory to God Church is a rather humble building compared to many Catholic churches you'll encounter. Just a simple white building along Harrison Boulevard here in Ogden with a simple garden and bell out in front.

I had to resist the urge to ring the bell as much as I wanted to. And the garden out front has several statues which are quite lovely including two angel statues.

I must admit, I took this photo specifically for Dr. Who fans. I think it's a fun statue on many levels.

When you first walk into the church, you're greeted by a nearly life sized statue of Jesus standing on a table amid stocks of wheat, flowers, and candles. This creates quite an amazing impression on you as you enter the sanctuary as it a confined space making its presence feel both imposing and comforting.

The main sanctuary is similar to most Catholic churches I have been in, pews, an altar adorned with candles, statues of saints and Jesus, the Stations of the Cross along both walls, a tabernacle behind the altar.

The altar with the tabernacle behind it. Today the altar was adorned with palm branches for Palm Sunday.

The lectern where they perform their scripture readings and usually deliver a sermon. Before it is the Gospel Book. The book contains the Four Gospels in the Bible. During a Mass, the priest or deacon will read a selection from the book while everybody stands. This is symbolic of Jesus coming into the world and teaching mankind.

A shrine to the Virgin Mary on the right hand side of the altar. I found this to be a very beautiful shrine. I loved the actual lace veil they adorned her with.

A stained glass window of The Good Shepherd knocking at the door.

A shofar that was played at the service. If you will notice, it is the exact same shofar as was used at the Community of Christ Church that I visited several weeks ago. (Picture below taken at the Community of Christ Church in Ogden.)

More on why this shofar is in two different churches on my blog a little later.

Overall, the atmosphere of this church was pretty much everything I've come to expect from a Catholic church with no real surprises. I liked the atmosphere very much, and it felt like home for the little Catholic boy inside me.

The People:

The people at Glory to God Church were quite friendly and loving. Unlike a typical Catholic church, the Peace is done at the beginning of the Mass and not at the time of Communion. For those unfamiliar with Catholicism or liturgical Protestantism, the Peace is a symbolic gesture where you great your neighbor with a sign of peace, usually a handshake, as a sign of making peace with the community before approaching God. Here, most people hugged. I was hugged by more strangers today than I think I ever have been in my life, which I loved.

There were a few surprises for me. First of all, the pastor there was a bishop, which I wasn't expecting and was assisted by a priest (who wanted to steal my hat) and two deacons. The priest is married to the man who led the Community of Christ service I attended a few weeks back. This is why the shofar is the same shofar, the Community of Christ simply borrowed it for their service. I ran into a few familiar faces while I was there, which was quite interesting. Most of the community seemed to be made up of LGBT people or Catholics who had found a more accepting home in that community.

I felt nothing but warmth and love from the people at Glory to God Church. It wasn't like my previous experiences in Catholic churches where people tend to be standoffish and not engage you prior to the service.

The Service:

I am going to preface this by saying, today was Palm Sunday, so the service is a little different than a typical Sunday service.

That being said, this was not what I was expecting. The first part was. We met in the social hall and the palm leaves were blessed, and there was a procession around the front of the church with the cross, the clergy swinging a censer full of frankincense, a man sounding the shofar, and us following behind singing. This is very normal and very traditional on Palm Sunday. In more traditional Catholic countries, this procession might even take the form of a solemn parade. I felt very at home doing this.

When we arrived back inside the chapel, the service became quite a different service. There was a screen in the main sanctuary that played a video about Palm Sunday, then the congregation sang contemporary Christian rock/pop songs while the lyrics were projected onto the screen. It felt very much like an Evangelical Christian service at that point.

Afterward, the bishop came forward and gave a short prayer asking the members to call to mind their sins, then asking God for absolution. The bishop then pronounced absolution over the congregation. The Peace was then exchanged, and announcements made. After the announcements and a community prayer where they asked members to voice their prayers, more contemporary Christian music was sang, all of it pre-recorded music. I really felt I was in an Evangelical service for the first half. All the while, my mind was racing because, though it wasn't the Masses of my youth, it was still Catholic in a way I couldn't explain. I felt at home.

After the hymns, there was the typical Palm Sunday Gospel reading which usually takes the place of a sermon and the other scripture readings. It's typically a dramatic reading of one of the four Gospels with multiple congregants acting out different parts. This was no exception. The man playing Jesus in the reading the part of Jesus stood at the lectern with a Jewish prayer shall over his head, and other member of the congregation played other roles standing in different parts of the church. This was as I remember Palm Sunday services going, however, there was one additional element: a slide show projected onto the screen behind the altar. The slides included famous artwork and scenes from the Passion of the Christ that went along with the scenes. The scene went over the account of Jesus's passion from the Gospel of Mark from the Last Supper to the burial of Jesus.

After the readings, the service made an abrupt transition to an extremely traditional Catholic Mass. They sang a hymn with live organ music (from an electric organ) and then the communion prayers were done in traditional fashion with pomp and ceremony, bells, incense, Latin chants, etc. The contrast between the first and second half of the service did give me a brief pause, but I enjoyed it very much.

The Message:

As I stated, earlier, the reading took the place of a sermon today. As such, there wasn't a real message, only the reenactment of the Passion of Jesus.

Overall Experience:

I had quite a good time at Glory to God Old Catholic Church. I think I will definitely be returning sometime soon to check it out. Like St. Joseph's Catholic Church did for me a few months ago, this really made me feel connected to something I feel is missing in my life that I can't explain. There is a part of me that will always remain Catholic no matter where I go in life.

Additional Notes:

This week is Holy Week. I was going to try to do 4 services this week, but my schedule doesn't look like it will permit me to do so. At the least, I will be attending Good Friday, and I have a special surprise for Easter Sunday that may be unexpected. I will also attempt Maundy Thursday services, though that might not happen now.

Stay tuned to the blog for future updates about this week.

Until next time, peace be with you.

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