22 March 2017

The Ministry of Name Asking

I have been attending weekly worship my whole life.

I have worshipped with people in different languages and on different continents.

The majority of my church experience has been in mostly white, suburban Catholic churches.

But recently I have noticed a particular ministry often missing from other Catholic churches I have attended or visited. 

The ministry of name asking.

Since mid-November, I have been attending Mass on Sunday at small, vibrant inner city parish in Detroit, St. Augustine and St. Monica.

I started here with the idea of visiting all the different Catholic churches in Detroit between then and Lent. But somehow I didn't get much farther than the first few times I visited this particular church.

It is something very, very special. Passionate preaching. An incredible Gospel choir. Lots of cultural diversity. And a sense of welcoming community that often is hard to find in some suburban parishes.

The thing that most struck me that first Sunday I attended was the 5 people who came up and asked me my name. They noticed I was a stranger, that I was sitting by myself in the church.

Bob the older gentleman gave me the biggest hug at the Sign of Peace (which takes 15 minutes here because people walk around and hug each other!). Hermann the adult altar server said, "Hi my name is Hermann! I have never seen you before here. Welcome!" Three sweet older ladies came up, asked my name (without ever telling me their names!), and told me they love when visitors come.

I have fallen in love with this sweet community. 
And for me it all started with friendly smiles and the ministry of name asking.

One of my favorite Gospel stories is when Mary Magdalene is at the empty tomb. 

She is weeping, and so hysterical she mistakes Jesus for the local gardener. But when Jesus calls her name, "Mary" she realizes whom is actually standing before her. Whenever I read this story, I am always left wondering at the power of names. I think about the beauty when we hear God call us individually by our name.

The ministry of name asking and warm smiles is not one I see done really, really well in suburban churches sometimes. No, I am not saying you need to join an inner city church to find the best spiritual home.

But for me it is found in a small community on the east side of Detroit. 

My experience at St. Augustine and St. Monica has reaffirmed to me the power of calling people by their name; whether thanking by the name the guy at Kroger who bags my groceries or the gas station attendant who gives me my change.

Call people by their name.

Do so with a warm, friendly smile.

Yes these are small things. But small acts of love can make a big difference.

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  1. I love that you're writing about this! It totally makes me feel less-weird for introducing myself to random people at church haha. Seriously though, I've been trying to actually walk up and meet all those people who I see Sunday to Sunday and have no clue who they are. I'm still working on it, since some days I don't feel like chasing down the people who race out the door, but eventually, I'll get there ;)

    It's also neat, because just today at Mass the woman in the pew next to us introduced herself after Mass and kept inviting us to Stations this evening. It's not our "home" parish, but the one with a daily Mass time that we can make, so we get there about once a week, and I guess this woman hadn't seen us before. It really touched me that she wanted to welcome us and invite us to come back :)

  2. What an incredibly welcoming church you have found. I agree that some of the suburban churches can sometimes have a tendency to feel a bit closed off to those who are new. I have thought of this often but thought I was the only who felt this way so I never verbalized my concerns. Thanks for posting this! God Bless!


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