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.