Thursday, June 22, 2017

Our Lady Of Good Counsel Jacksonville, NC

We know very little about this group, other than what was reported here in this post. Although Fr Waun is a retired Navy chaplain, my regular correspondent has found that he continues as a civilian Catholic chaplain at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC, about 40 miles away. (I worked summer jobs in high school across the river from Cherry Point).

As previously reported, the church is a storefront. My regular correspondent hasn't located a photo of the interior, but says, "the property (3000 sq ft) is divided up into at least 6 suites, so the available space must be similar to the photo below. Other current tenants include a fitness studio."

Storefront chapels aren't unusual for "continuing" parishes, but this sort of thing doesn't seem especially compatible with ad orientem or DW mass. As reported a year ago, what we actually find there is OF and guitar. My correspondent adds that the founding group

contained several members of the Porterfield family. Kevin Porterfield set up the website, etc and was heavily involved in programming but perhaps he lost interest at a point. In the fall of 2015 he started teaching middle school so perhaps he has less volunteer time. Or perhaps as a teacher he has discovered the wisdom of avoiding personal social media. Nothing has been updated for about two years on the OLGC website; the FB page is a stub.
We might reasonably assume that ordination in the OCSP qualified Fr Waun to serve as a civilian contractor Catholic chaplain, which nicely supplements his Navy pension. The apparent lack of activity in the Our Lady of Good Counsel group suggests it is not Fr Waun's first priority.

The other Catholic church in Jacksonville, NC is the Infant of Prague Church. Certainly the interior we see here is at least as nice as those in the biggest OCSP parishes -- notices of choir practice on the parish website suggest some effort goes into a music program, and drop-ins might find something better than a guitar-and-tambourine mass. So your choice is between guitar and OF in the storefront and OF with stained glass and better music at Infant of Prague.

If you found yourself in Jacksonville, NC on a Sunday, which mass would you choose? Assuming Fr Waun were still holding mass in the storefront, of course.

What problem are we trying to solve?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Basement Groups

We've already looked at the Pasadena group-in-formation that meets in a dreary basement chapel. My regular correspondent has sent me views of two others. Here's St Anselm Greenville, SC

Here's Our Lady of Walsingham Maple Ridge, BC (my correspondent says it's not nearly this full on a normal Sunday):

Several things strike me. The first is that both venues are nicer than Pasadena, although the reredos and icon in Greenville are offset by the cinder block walls. However, they're both basement chapels. Beyond that, their maximum capacity is in the neighborhood of two dozen, though they apparently don't fill the space most of the time.

Why are these people doing this -- or expressed another way, what problem are these people trying to solve? During 2012, we saw the original Anglicanorum coetibus model of groups being received into the OCSP and the Church. The assumption was that, as new Catholics, they were going to move ahead, locate a permanent venue, grow as parishes, establish good music programs, and so forth. St Albans Rochester, currently down and awaiting a reboot, is an example. By and large, this model hasn't developed as expected, but I wonder if this isn't still what some people in basement groups have in mind if asked what they expect to accomplish.

Once the target market for Anglicanorum coetibus was expanded to include those baptized Catholic but not confirmed, the canonical membership of groups became more ambiguous, and beyond that, it appears that a substantial proportion (though very small in absolute numbers) of fully initiated Catholics also participates in basement groups.

So as far as I can see, people attracted to basement groups-in-formation fall into three categories:

  1. The "continuing Anglican" target market of angry Anglicans who want the 1928 BCP and male clergy
  2. Catholics not fully initiated who are somehow drawn to a group for other reasons
  3. Fully initiated Catholics looking for reverent celebration that they feel they can't find in the diocese.
The problem I see in all these cases is that the record we have over more than five years is that these groups have in fact not grown. My regular correspondent frequently notes that Our Lady of the Atonement had acquired property and begun construction on its church and school within five years of its founding. No OCSP group in formation has accomplished anything like this, and none appears likely to do so.

One peculiar feature of the St John Fisher Orlando group is that it appears to have many Catholics already eligible to receive the sacraments -- my regular correspondent sent me this photo of Bp Lopes celebrating mass there last October:

The photo was sent to resolve the question of what constitutes the altar in that chapel -- apparently it's the window sill -- but it also suggests the OCSP has departed from the 2012 model whereby the groups of Anglicans are received as Catholics in a well-publicized ceremony. Instead, it looks like the St John Fisher group is already Catholic.

But if this is the case, Bp Lopes is doing them (who are his flock) no favors.

  • They're celebrating mass in tiny groups, separate from the life of the Church
  • They're cutting themselves off from parish activities like Bible study, weekday mass, and adoration
  • Such small groups can't realistically support a music program
  • Meeting in basement chapels fosters a pusillanimous atmosphere that probably inhibits stewardship
  • Since the groups do not have a record of growth, they will never be able to expand their activities.
I've come to recognize that the flip-flop-and-halter-top, Breaking Bread, guitar-and-tambourine OF mass is a stereotype, and a little enterprise and willingness to explore can allow many diocesan Catholics to find reverent and spiritually rewarding celebration without the need to form little groups based largely on wishful thinking.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why A Second Orlando Community?

My regular correspondent sent me a link to this announcement of a new OCSP community meeting at Nemours Children's Hospital Chapel in Orlando. A check of Google maps shows this is 24.6 miles from the Incarnation parish. The link makes it very clear that this is an OCSP community:
A new Catholic community is now going to be worshipping at Nemours Children’s Hospital Chapel. The new group is a community of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter: a special type of diocese, completely Catholic in every way, for Roman Catholics who were previously Anglican. Any Roman Catholic may participate in Mass at an Ordinariate parish or community.
(Note, though, how the announcement talks down to the reader. We left our previous diocesan parish in part because the associate talked down so much in a happy-birthday-Jesus kind of way. Looks like this is happening here. What about Roman Catholics who are of average intelligence and maturity? Is Houston aware of, or indeed, originating, this kind of stuff?)

Unfortunately, I think we know why there's a second community forming in Orlando, notwithstanding the existing one can't fill its pews on Christmas. I think it's fairly plain that this is a make-work project like the one in Pasadena (or the failed one in Tampa) to bring in yet another marginal candidate for ordination, when it's not even clear where they can serve when they're ordained. In the Pasadena and Tampa cases, we're looking at individuals with a track record in other denominations of trying and failing to establish and grow small groups -- yet Houston seems to think it's a good idea to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Here's the interior of the Nemours chapel, a very nice one, though clearly it's intended as a bright and optimistic place where families can pray for children in distress, not necessarily a place for solemn ad orientem worship. (Does that lectern qualify as an altar at all? Do they turn it around on its casters for DW mass?) But of course, this particular project is to benefit clergy, not people. Bp Lopes, you have a problem with perception here.

Tomorrow I'll look at a couple of groups meeting in basement chapels and offer some thoughts on what may be behind this sort of fecklessness.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Christ The King Towson, MD

My regular correspondent sent me some links to photos of Christ the King, Towson:

At least at the time the photos were taken, the altar is set up for versus populum celebration, so the overall atmosphere is low-church. While there's a little more effort to seem Catholic than at Holy Nativity, this stems largely from cloth hangings, and there's no question that should the need to sell arise, First Baptist would find the property attractive -- this may have been in mind from the start, or this may simply have been a selection from a catalog of prefab church building options (pointed windows or rounded?).

There's no question that there are diocesan parish buildings like this -- and I think the pastor of our successful diocesan parish might say that's part of the problem facing the Church these days, at least if you prodded him. But let's ask what Anglicanorum coetibus is apparently trying to do -- basically, make an extra effort. What we see here is regression to the mean. You can have a DW mass, or within a short time, Pentecostal Holiness can set up a rock n roll band on the dais. That wouldn't happen at St Thomas the Apostle, whatever else would.

It's hard to avoid the impression here that we've-done-enough. Again, there's a bait-and-switch in operation, the OCSP is sold as the new liturgical movement, positive outreach to Anglicanism, but what the buyer gets is still hard to distinguish from First Baptist, or indeed, the don't-quite-care diocesan parish down the street. Let's keep in mind as we move along that this is part of the OCSP's upper tier.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Holy Nativity, Payson, AZ

In some ways, Holy Nativity, Payson is a refreshing change from BVM Ottawa and Incarnation Orlando. Its website is comprehensive and attractive, although the News page carries no mention of the new pastor.

The exterior is quite attractive, although I've seen TEC churches in Arizona where the architects seem to have had greater latitude to incorporate the scenic context.

I also get the feeling that the current pastor has had a greater sense of stewardship of the property, and things don't seem quite so threadbare as they do in Ottawa and Orlando. Here is the interior:

Indeed, though, the interior is hard to distinguish from a Baptist parish. I don't see icons or stations of the cross, though they may be out of frame.

I had a brief exchange with my regular correspondent over my reservations about OCSP interiors, and I replied with this to illustrate what I mean.

This is our former TEC parish, St Thomas the Apostle Hollywood. Certainly someone can object that I'm comparing apples to oranges, TEC has always had the resources to build something like this, while all but a handful of OCSP parishes are operating on a shoestring.

My reply is that this is precisely the problem. At its founding, the bishop named the parish St Thomas because he was doubtful of its prospects, but by 1930, it had erected the basic interior we see. By the early 1980s it had entered a period of decline, but a strong rector, Fr Carroll Barbour, initiated a period of renewal that has been continued by his successor. What's visible is not something that has just been passed down; it's taken considerable sustained effort to bring it to this point.

The OCSP is something of a bait-and-switch, selling the Precious Treasures of the Anglican Spiritual Patrimony and giving the buyer First Baptist instead, at least architecturally, and often not even that.

It brings to mind a recent post by Fr Z, where he says

Dear readers, parishes are not the sole responsibility of bishops and priests. They are your responsibility too.

. . . . Parishes have bills. If you want a parish, you have to pay the bills. The bills don’t pay themselves. Magic wands don’t create money from thin air. You have to be involved with “time, treasure and talent”.

Holy Nativity is not even self-sufficient, since its pastor must rely on a pension. I would say that for the OCSP to survive, much less grow, Houston is going to have to put much more stress on contributions, both monetary and in kind, from membership, but it certainly doesn't help that the clergy fosters an atmosphere of complacency and self-congratulation. Nor is it a coincidence that the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society seems to think that shabby churches like the one in Ottawa are just the thing.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

At Last, A Reredos, But. . .

My regular correspondent sent me a link to this post at the New Liturgical Movement blog. As one might expect, it shows photos of liturgically-oriented Catholic parishes' mass celebrations during Christmas 2016, and if you scroll to the very, very bottom of the post, you'll see four shots of a mass at the OCSP parish Incarnation Orlando. Here's an example:

I assume the foggy atmosphere is due to the incense. I would say, though, that there's a very good reason the Incarnation photos are dead last -- there's just no comparison with the other, diocesan parishes. For instance, here's St Mary Norwalk, CT:

Even at a full OCSP parish, I get a sense of a camping trip. Yeah, there's an altar, and it's set up ad orientem, but it's almost a token effort, especially in comparison to the other, diocesan interiors. The same goes for the reredos -- it's almost as if they aimed for the minimum thing that might qualify for the definition of reredos. And apparently this is a Christmas mass, but there's no Christmas decor -- when the trees and garlands in the diocesan parishes stem from English traditions!

The rest of the decor is rather sparse and barren. And, er, this is a Christmas mass, but down there at the lower left -- what appears to be partly or completely empty pews, in a smallish space. At our diocesan parish, the nave overflows at Christmas and Easter. The lines for the sacrament go on for many minutes.

Not here. What's up? Compare it to this shot of the Cathedral of St Eugene, Santa Rosa, CA from the same post:

All things considered, it's almost as if the OCSP is making a half-hearted effort to give its members an inferior experience. The Precious Spiritual Treasures of the Anglican Patrimony indeed. You've got to be kidding. Why go to these cramped, desultory, slouchy, half-done venues when there's so much more available?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Blessed John Henry Newman Irvine And The Problem Of Small Communities

My regular correspondent sent me a link to this photo of the Queen of Life Chapel at the Busch law firm offices in Irvine, CA, where the BJHN group meets.

It's significant, though, that this particular photo is located on the chapel's own website, not on the website or Facebook page of BJHN -- and the chapel site mentions weekday masses held there, but it makes no mention of the BJHN group. Clearly these are separate entities, and BJHN is there at the pleasure of the Busch firm. I'll get to this.

My regular correspondent notes,

The website has an excellent picture of the interior of the Queen of Life Chapel, used by BJHN, Irvine, although in their case the altar would be set up for an ad orientem celebration. Communicants receive kneeling, despite lack of an altar rail. No lack of Catholic devotional objects here! And Fr Bartus has a collection of truly impressive fiddleback chasubles in all colours including blue and black. Venue has pleasant social space, indoor and outdoor, and lots of parking. Big drawback is its size, it would seem to me. I have a theory that people do not like to worship regularly in a place that is more than 3/4 full, regardless of whether that represents twenty people or five hundred. So if he wants parish to grow he has to keep adding Sunday masses, and he now has three, plus Pasadena on Sunday night.
My guess is that each of those pews can seat eight adults, though this would be tight, so full-up capacity would be 64 -- though using my correspondent's ideal of 3/4 capacity, this would actually be 48, which would put best-case three-mass weekend attendance at 144. I suspect it seldom reaches this.

My other regular friend notes this regarding yesterday's post:

[P]lease be careful about disparaging small faith communities. Many large parishes suffer greatly from becoming too impersonal — places where the clergy cannot get to know the majority of the parishioners, and where parishioners don’t get to know one another either, so that visitors are often completely unnoticed and lost in the crowd rather than greeted in a spirit of Christian hospitality and made to feel welcome. The Christian life is often depicted as a wheel in which our Lord is the hub and the four spokes are (1) worship (or prayer) (2) learning (or study), (3) fellowship (or community), and (4) mission (or ministry). Here, worship encompasses both liturgy and personal prayer, learning encompasses both group classes and personal study, fellowship is about members of the community coming together to build one another up in faith, with both spiritual and social components, and mission is outreach most notably to the unchurched, which also may have both spiritual and social welfare components.

. . . . For better or worse, the fact remains that Our Lady of the Annunciation has its own church building — which is something that many ordinariate congregations still lack — because its founding core brought that property with them when they came into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The fact that the congregation does not completely fill the church is good, as it means that the community has room to grow in its current facility. I’m somewhat frustrated by the lack of public indication as to whether this community is actually growing or not, or even replaced those who left when it decided to enter the ordinariate, but that will come to light in due course.

I certainly agree that a living parish encompasses the four spokes my friend mentions, although at the very low membership levels we see in the OCSP, I question whether every community has enough individuals with the talent and commitment to realize all of them. Also at very low membership levels, we have the problem my regular correspondent raised yesterday, that drop-ins are very conspicuous, and greeters would need to exercise extreme tact in allowing new people to merge at their own pace. I think of a church lady with her camera and cringe.

Actually, I think my correspondent's rule of thumb preferring 3/4 full naves is a little like the laws of physics, where size makes a difference. The much larger nave-transept at our diocesan parish is typically 90-100% full at the 9:30 and 11:00 Sunday masses, such that if you want a good seat, you'd better be 15 minutes early. Which model would a bishop prefer? Also, the ready availability of numerous activities like Bible study, fellowship, and adoration does in fact allow the new members to ease in without being conspicuous and find what's preferable among a wide range of options.

Finally, whether a community owns or just has the use of a small space on other terms, there are problems that won't go away. My friend pointed out not long ago that membership alone is only one criterion for making a full OCSP parish. Others include stability and payment of the cathedraticum. A potential problem we might see with BJHN is that its use of the chapel space is entirely conditional, and it almost certainly doesn't have to meet utility and maintenance expenses there -- or if it does, these would still not be comparable to expenses of ownership. If Mr Busch were to be hit by a truck and some other faction of the family or firm were to take over, the group could lose the space on very short notice, and this would be simply a major crisis.

But the BJHN group also faces the same hurdle as the Annunciation group in Ottawa: whatever wiggle room they have on a small scale, significant growth will represent a major threshold they'll need to cross. They'll need to find a larger venue if they grow past 50 or so at three weekend masses, but the expenses connected with this could still be much greater than the group could accommodate.

I believe the only Anglican-based community that's ever crossed this threshold successfully is Our Lady of the Atonement, but it's worth pointing out that it did so within five years of its founding.