I went to a “Rebuilt” Mass. I came as an observer of it, just another person in the crowd. (No clerics on.) It is a Mass within a new movement in Maryland to make the celebration of Mass more relevant to younger Mass-goers (though the Rebuilt founders may dress their approach up in other terms). Here’s how it came across to me– it was like pulling in to a Cineplex today.
The church seemed more like an auditorium, and it was very dark inside, with commercials for the parish flashing on large screens up front. On the way in through the main doors, I was passed by kids going out carrying paper plates of fresh pizza slices, adult men and women leaving with foam cups of hot coffee to their mouths, and a grandma in jeans and a t-shirt exiting while eating a banana. That’s just for starters, folks. (These people were leaving the café area of the parish, which I took a peak at before walking into the church part. These people were leaving from the prior Sunday liturgy. But how often do you run into people leaving Mass with slices of pizza?! But I knew I wasn’t at the Cineplex, but at a Catholic church for Mass! I joked to myself: “Maybe their dismissal to close Mass is: The Mass is ended, go and eat pizza.”)
There was a greeting team and a parking team to hold open the door to church and to tell me exactly where to park beforehand. As I pulled up the church driveway, I saw a couple walking in from the neighborhood street, and it occurred to me that they did so because they wanted to choose their parking situation. After Mass, in the scramble of people coming and going, I understood why they chose the far-away spot. ‘Twas quite a parking mess. Obviously, the parish will need to schedule Masses at least 2 hours apart in the future (and not 90 minutes), lest someone and their banana gets run over in the confusion out on the lot between liturgies.
In watching people coming out from the earlier Mass, I did notice smiles on faces, and a good number of families in the crowd. Ah, a big positive! People liked this parish! Well, that was a very good sight to see! People walking in to Mass also looking pretty happy to be coming. That was refreshing.
As I saw the arriving congregants, I also saw a more younger crowd, with numbers of new families. There were not many older persons over 65. Maybe 5%, which in Catholic America is quite odd. Well, it’s a positive and a negative here on that accord.
Well, a second negative was noticeable. Most of the people all looked the same race and/or middle or middle/upper class background. This sameness among the people was a little off-putting to me, because I knew the Maryland area of the parish church was more of a blended area, even though in a partly-affluent corridor out of the city. The congregants were almost all dressed in casual cool or just in plain jeans and shorts. (Even more dressed-down that one going out to dinner somewhere. There was an abundance of Orioles t-shirts in the attendees of Mass, suggesting maybe that they were including the struggling team in their intercessory prayers. It worked, as the O’s won today–even with Chris Tillman pitching! 🙂 A man who did walk in to Mass wearing a suit did stand out among the incoming Mass-comers. There was just a casualness in this parish that spoke of some lack of reverence here. Of course, I have seen this casualness in other places– just not so dominantly (except at Beach parishes in the Summer).
As some of my first impressions were not so good here, I reminded myself that I was going to try to be positive, and not to come in with a critical attitude. After all, this was my Sunday Mass obligation, as well. I came incognito, and sat in with the congregation today.
As I walked in to a darkened church, I could make out an altar, a presider’s chair, an ambo, a crucifix, and some lit candles on stands up front and center. Check: I was in a Catholic church. One problem: No visible tabernacle, no sanctuary lamp.
What got one’s attention instead were the large screens flashing announcements and commercials above me, and everybody in the church was talking to one another, or checking their phones for messages (but not looking at Catholic Apps, such as one to prepare for liturgy!). I saw only a minimal of people remaining quiet or looking like they were praying. A young lady was taping something live on a tv camera just three pews away from me, evidently for their broadcast of this show, er, Mass, later on to the parish web site. She was a distraction.
Relevance all too often sacrifices reverence in a church. I immediately saw that here.
The band members were not a distraction, as they stood discreetly off to the side. They were my lone witnesses to some respectful attitude before Mass. Their drums and guitars were up on a platform, which rivaled the altar space for attention. As Mass started, the band walked on. From then on, people would be looking off to the side at them, or up at the big screens, about half as much as they would be looking at the lector or priest or altar. These side distractions would hold a lot of the attention in Mass. Still, the members of the band before and during Mass seemed to be the most reverent people in the house. More on them later. Mass has not started yet.
There was no kneeler to position oneself humbly for pre-Mass prayers. There were no missalettes to check out the readings for Mass (although I always do that at home before I come in to Mass, so it was no loss for me, as I knew of the Jeremiah reading, the Psalm, the epistle, and the “what you hear in the dark, you must speak and proclaim in the Light” Gospel of this Sunday). Thankfully, there were no parish bulletins to be found, so no one was eyeing them as pre-Mass reading material. 🙂
It was past the time for Mass to start, but we hadn’t begun yet. There was no sign of a procession to be coming in of servers, cantors, deacon and priest. However, there was a video welcome given to us from the big screens by two spokespersons for the parish, and many explanations to be made of what to do. Next, another video came up about when the children would be leaving for their “Time Travel” session. Now, finally, came the opening song.
The words to the opening song were up on the screens, and the music group was lively and contemporary. I liked the way the group sang and played, but I did not know the song, nor did the people around me, so we mostly watched and listened to them sing and play. I am not sure how the priest and one server got up to the sanctuary, but suddenly they were there. (Did they rise up from below the stage?!) The Sign of the Cross opened us up, and a Penitential Rite by the presider. The Gloria was a rousing 2017-sounding one, perhaps written by this parish group. I sang along, as I could. A member near me sang along pretty loudly and enthusiastically. That was nice to notice. As the Collect was prayed, I noticed something a little odd. The presider wasn’t facing us, but he was facing diagonally away from us, angled toward the altar from his presider’s chair, positioned beside the altar ten feet away. A lone teen or young adult altar server held the Missal for the priest, and I noted that the young man had an earpiece, receiving instructions from someone controlling the Mass from some side place. Odd again. Oh, now I got it, the priest was looking into a camera. We, the live congregation, he had his back to. Just great! Check: negative.
In the back of church was a lighting ministry and a sound ministry. From the appearance of it, they were paid helpers for Mass, vital to the liturgy, and helping with all the slides. Ushers were going up and down the aisles spying for free seats about.
When the Liturgy of the Word began, the only slides to go up were the responsorial words of the Psalm song (which was not the Lectionary Psalm) and some text of the Gospel. The church remained dark throughout the Mass so we could see the slides. (If you had brought a St. Joseph’s Missal for assistance, then it would not have helped unless one used a cell phone light to see it.) This lack of text is not much of a problem for me, since I think The Scriptures should be heard as proclaimed, rather than read along in the pew by persons looking down towards their missalettes. I get that concept. However, I have a comment about it. This way that the Rebuilt Mass does the Word requires a very good lector to do it, and one who does not have an accent. In most parishes, that would disclude many Africans, Asians, South and Central Americans from being lectors. Heaven forbid a Jamaican or Australian or even Green Bay Wisconsin-ite be chosen to proclaim the Word, due to the need that all could understand each Scripture verse proclaimed (since a text can’t be followed). Just saying. It’s an exclusionary way this church does the Liturgy of the Word– for good communications’ sake. The human factor was orchestrated here. Not so good.
I was ready for a good homily. The pastor-priest was proclaiming the Gospel and preaching today in Holy Mass. Yet I was disappointed by what came next. After proclaiming the Gospel, he merely summed up the readings and showed their ties to not being afraid to be the Lord’s voice or witness to the world. Then he advertised that a series on Moses was coming at the tail end of Mass (though Moses isn’t in any Summer readings of Year A cycle, as far as I know). Yet I like theme preaching a lot, so I looked forward to this post-Communion homily to come, since we were quickly standing up now and praying the Apostles’ Creed.
I checked the time, and it was only 25 minutes into Mass. We were going in fast speed. No break for any silence either. The Offertory Song to follow the Universal Prayer was a familiar praise song of charismatic prayer meetings, so I knew it and joined along in the song. No procession of gifts was done. Soon, we were moving into the Eucharistic Prayer(EP). Surprisingly, the Holy Holy song was the sung Latin Sanctus, of which the Praise Band took a break and it was almost an acapella prayer. We were signaled to sit for the EP. (No kneelers.) A few tried kneeling, but there was no room for that.
I watched the presider through the Mass, and he was pretty expressionless throughout, during a Mass with lots of high tech and praise band excitement. A little odd. He seemed to be doing things in a hurry, too. He prayed a normal Eucharistic Prayer and did the elevations properly of Body and Blood, though. As the Peace Rite exchange began, he was breaking the bread and the Lamb of God was sung and done quite soon. Just one Lay Minister joined Father in the sanctuary space at the Lamb of God (to serve a church of 300). I wondered about that in the moment, comparing the number of parking lot ministers I saw while pulling in.
As Communion started, the Praise Band didn’t receive, but went into singing right away, and I didn’t see them receive during the Mass. I also noticed that other lay ministers appeared with ciboria, but not with Eucharist from the altar or a tabernacle in the altar area. Odd. They just appeared in numerous places with the Eucharist from somewhere, and the Communion Rite was finished up pretty quickly. It was only 42 minutes in when the Prayer after Communion was done, without a call for people to stand up for it, nor for the blessing. The priest prayed in the diagonal direction away from the people again, and then abruptly announced: “The Mass is ended.” But the church experience was not over, just simply paused. A dismissal of children from the church to their programs was announced, and a layman came up and then gave an 18 minute Moses talk, complete with slides, as the presider sat in his chair, again looking a bit detached and unemotional about everything, even as the pastor of this whole operation. The lay teacher taught us how Moses had an attitude of gratitude.
This lay teacher did a very good job on the Moses teaching, and then we all stood, with the children come marching back in on a cue, and we sang a short closing song. There was no procession out. When the song ended, the priest shook some hands up front. Most of the congregants went out into a café area to have donuts and coffee, and fruit, and bagels, and best of all, slices of fresh pizza.
I wondered about the value of the Eucharist inside of us as we lined up for pizza. I decided to skip the pizza. I took a walk around and I saw the babysitting ministry room, the little kids room for ministry, and the Time Travelers room, and some other rooms for during Mass/Moses talk occupation of the young. (I stood in the Time Travelers room and wished to be at the 1983 World Series in Baltimore again, but nothing happened.)
I had managed to get inside and out of this “friendly parish” without anyone walking up and saying hi to me, except for a quick sign of peace in Mass, and I tried to go up and talk to a musician after Mass, but they turned away to talk amongst themselves. I realized later that they were paid to play all the Masses of the morn, as well was likely the lector a paid person. That ‘professionalism’ did not lend to those folks acting like regular members. Not, at least, to my observation. Paid help can act differently at or in a Mass or afterwards. No surprise in that. But not ideal!
Outside there were many people talking on the plaza, or hanging awhile in the café. The mood was pretty good, except for the parking lot, as people for the next Mass were arriving, but not finding available parking spaces. The parking ministers had a job on their hand keeping people calm out there. If only Moses could have parted and opened up some new spaces somewhere, for a safe but late exodus of the 1030 Mass Folk and a safe arrival of the Noon Mass new folk.
I realized as I drove away that I hadn’t genuflected or blessed myself with holy water before my departure, until I realized that no one did at this parish. It’s different.
My favorite part of the experience was the contemporary music, though it had its flaws. I also liked that the children’s and youth ministry were bringing and leaving happy faces on the young (along with chocolate donut frosting).
The “Rebuilt” (model) church needs much re-consideration.
I noticed they are building a bigger church on the grounds. Perhaps the old space can be used as a parking garage (but I got a feeling they’ll use it as a mega-café). Or perhaps the new space and the present space is planned as one big space for worship, since they have the megachurch in mind with this place.
I am happy that many ‘Timoniniums’ and O’s fans are coming to Mass at this parish. We need people coming to Sunday Mass. I just wondered: Is THIS how we are to go about it?
I liked the contemporary music– well, at least to a point. The music ministers were the best part of the liturgy. Since I have a liking to contemporary praise music, I did enjoy it. However, the Mass needs to have its Liturgical Music, as well, which they really did not offer at the ReBuilt parish here. (I am a member of the National Pastoral Musicians Association for the reason of promoting liturgical works in the Mass, even contemporary ones, but not just Praise Band music. That music has its place. I really like it– but in its proper place.)
More comments….. I did like the Moses presentation, but it was odd that the preaching of the day was by a layman, and not the clergyman Yet I did like that people in the pews were staying for a Bible teaching of 18 minutes, as all Catholics very much need more Bible study and faith education. I have tried many ways in my own parishes to present as such. Sometimes it has led to longer Sunday homilies by me to get the message across, all with a 60-minute Mass limit in mind. I know Catholics need so much more knowledge of the Bible and Catechism and Apologetics and The Saints– they do need so much more than the little many settle for. ReBuilt, at least, is trying a creative way to keep Catholics in the pews for some teaching time. Yet the sacrifice of the priest’s homily time is too much. So, there’s a positive and negative comment in one there.
Other positives: I liked that the babe’s and children’s and pre-teens had a ministry for them on Sundays, and that a whole lot of people were involved in their parish (even if for selling $1 pizza after Mass). I figured that a high number of paid persons were needed for this whole operation to work, so I wondered all that worked out financially, or how much another parish (like ours) could copy it on a smaller budget. I guess if you have the higher collection, then you can pull more ministry off. Bravo to them that they pulled it off. Our parish cannot afford a band, nor light and sound and screen/computer teams, nor paid staff on Sundays for all the ministries, nor the Security Guard (off duty Baltimore policeman) they had present. Phew!
A major negative: I think Jesus was lost in all of this. Yes, He was glorified in the songs, and honored in the prayers, and mentioned centrally in His House, but all the trappings (music band, lights, cameras, screens, noise) took much away from His being honored and revered in His own Mass. The priest, His sign, also seemed secondary to the liturgy, even while it all depended on his being there. A general feeling of it being a religious drama show, with music, almost overwhelmed the Mass, and there was precious little reverence felt there for the one Centrality there that deserved the most respect: Christ as Eucharist and the Sacred Offering at Mass.
Yes, we got Communion at this Sunday Mass, and we did acclaim Jesus— but it was such an unfamiliar way of doing it. The boxes were checked of Catholic things to do in a proper Mass, but the Mystery seemed to be missing in the middle.
I think the Catholic Sunday Liturgy does need some of the elements and modern adaptations present at the Rebuilt Mass. I get where they are coming from, but I am not sure where they are going, and I am unsure about how they are going about this reform. I came as a person very interested in what they were trying to do here, but I am unsold on it at this time. I am a fan for their trying, and in doing so as Catholics, rather than departing independents trying to re-invent the Christian Church.
But I think the “Rebuilt” program had better re-group!
I have read all their materials in the past few years in attempting this project. I like some ideas a lot, but I am flummoxed and offended by some other ideas of theirs.
But I just had to take a Sunday and go see a ReBuilt Mass for myself. I did this today, leaving my retreat house to drive to this liturgy. I wrote this review back at the retreat house.
Consider Who the Host is at any Catholic Church. He is Jesus. The Attention needs to be on Him in any Mass, whether a Cathedral Mass with choir or a daily Mass in a simple country chapel. His Presence in the Church, via the reserved Blessed Sacrament, is the first consideration of ‘noticing Him’ when one enters the Catholic parish church. His Presence in the Priest, via Holy Orders, is an important focus as the prayers of Mass take place. The priest presider/celebrant should reflect this and he should be aware of it. Then the Word in Scripture announces Him. The Eucharistic Prayer really ought to be prayed along (participated) by the faithful on their knees. The Lord is Come to us in Mass. The Eucharist and its thanksgiving is such the vital experience of the Mass. It must not be lost amidst all else going on around it. When I leave the Sacred Liturgy, the Peace of The Presence needs to be central. The communal experience of prayer needs its key link to the action at the Altar (The Miracle of the Lord’s Supping with us) and our being commonly fed by the One Loaf Who is Christ, Bread of Life.