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Grant Gallicho January 13, 2007 - 11:11pm
The New York Times has published the first in a long-awaited (at least by me), major series of articles by David Gonzalez on a Pentecostal church in Harlem, and "los aleluyas" who run it. (You should also check out the interactive feature.)
A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday nY Times magazine ran a lengthy piece on how the Catholic church in Los Angeles was growing -mainly due to its relations with the latino community.Years ago in New York, Cardinal Spellman hads many priests well prepared to serve the latino community.Has the apostolate there gone downhill? Are the practices of Los Angeles (including mandatory learning of Spainsh) in place in New York?One of the lessons in the article s how important a sense of community is to Church reaching folks -especially those on the margins. How good a job is the Church in New York doing to provide this? I'd really be interested to hear some information on this.
This was a great 3-part series and todays was quite poignant. Can you imagine Catholic teenagers getting that involved with church? I dont have any, but I find it almost impossible to imagine. CCD or Catholic schools dont begin to inspire that kind of interest in church. Then, too, the intense interest that the pastor took in these kids and the nurturing time he took to pique, create and foster their interest was amazing. Of course, any priest these days that did something like that would be immediately suspected of ulterior motives, I am afraid.Small congregations foster intense devotion of the parishioners to their group and avoid the sacramental filling station approach that mega-churches and mega-parishes do. Our priest shortage is undoubtedly causing the church more harm that will ever be realized. That being said, small churches are always living hand-to-mouth because of limited finances and even more limited availability of willing hands. There is a certain critical mass that needs to be achieved in order to somewhat alleviate both of those problems. It would be nice if there was something in and about Catholicism that could inspire the kind of devotion and religious experience that the series revealed in great depth. I have never found that certain something since I came back to the church, but I did experience it somewhat in my sabbatical years elsewhere.
I agree wholeheartedly with Jimmy Mac about CCD for kids, and if I forget, I got an 11-year-old kid to tell me how boring and uninspired it is.This little church is offering a place for kids to find direction and recognition, and that's laudable.However, I thought reporter Gonzalez did a good job outlining some of challenges the church faced--tendency to control kids too much, to ride them about converting their friends, and to emphasize the emotionalism of religion (which the pastor rightly recognized as harmful when taken to excess; at one point in the story, he hustled the kids back home when a revival meeting they attended turned into a freak show).I have never been attracted to charismatic forms of religion largely because the charismatics and pentecostals I know seem very self-involved. But I think Gonzalez's series shows that there IS a sincere desire to help the poor and needy in the Pentecostal movement, to give up one's own comforts in order to do Christ's work.One of the lessons for Catholics in this series, I think, is the power of a decent sermon. Catholic homilies I've heard are tepid, boring or sound as if they've come out of a can. This is truly a shame, because there is so much in the Gospel that should fire our hearts and imaginations.
Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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