If you would have asked my Mom, the breakdown of everything is directly attributable to the loss of real front porches on houses and that we drive everywhere. People do not walk as much in their neighborhood because now they zip around in their cars. And even if they did walk, nobody is sitting out on their front porch that no longer exist to offer a howdy do and hand on the latest neighborhood talk.
When I was growing up (Oh, here we go - I am getting old) everybody in my neighborhood went to the same parish, worked in the same places, belonged to the same social clubs, hung out in the same parks, bowling alleys and like places. So when you went to Mass, you didn’t need a gathering space to gab and have coffee, you did that all the rest of the week - sometimes to the point of desiring to get to Mass to not have to do that anymore. Now we don’t see each other as much (or so it seems to me) and so when we get to Mass, there is a constant hum of chatter - not in praise to God, but about what Mable did last week and how the kids are and can you believe the price of bananas.
Older churches (like St. Sebastian) have gathering spaces about the size of a broom closet. More modern spaces (St. Hilary) have gather spaces that rival the size of the church building in which you could throw an inaugural ball (or at least a rocking donut Sunday.) It seems the reality is, that church is now also a social center - no longer just the spiritual center of a community, but the all encompassing source of the Christian Catholic community itself.
Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters have this idea down in spades. Often drawing from a huge geographical area, they know they must create a community when they have their congregants. Catholics parishes (particularly in this area) have boundaries. Our draw is much smaller (in theory.) We are the parish of the neighborhood or town. But now we feel we have to be the social center also which has it’s upside and its downside.
If we want to keep people, particularly younger people, we have to provide opportunities to form community in a way that was once (again in my limited experience) almost automatic. Yesterday we had an example of this which is very popular in many places: we had Theology on Tap, Akron, an event and place for persons (primary in their 20s and 30s) to come and socialize and hear a great Catholic talk (thank you Mr. Brownfield!) I’ve heard some criticism about meeting in a bar but please remember that my parish, in the 40’s, ran its own bar with the preaching from the pulpit, “Remember, if you are going to drink, drink at your parish!”
Anyway, here are some shots from our modern front porch:
Ladies and gentlemen, our MC for the evening: Rocco
Lots more space and parking here!
Our speaker Mr. Brownfield:
And making a surprise appearance, the newly ordained Fr. Anthony Simone, parochial vicar at St. Sebastian.
For more information about Theology on Tap, Akron go HERE. Next event: July 12th
For more information about Theology on the Rocks go HERE. Next event: June 19th