Last week, I had the privilege of teaching a course on catechetical history in the Advanced component of the Catechetical Leadership Program. As we looked at the fourth and fifth centuries, I noted that many churches of that period had large gathering areas, called narthexes. Worshippers usually walked to Mass, met one another in the narthex, and then entered the church proper as a true community. How different that was from today, when people who enter the church as strangers usually leave as strangers. If only we could recapture some of that fourth century community
Well, lo and behold, it happened this past Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, at Epiphany Church in Manhattan. The celebrant, a Jesuit named Father James Mayzik, invited each person in the congregation to introduce himself/herself to the nearest person. After a brief "we don't do that here" moment, everyone gamely stuck out a hand and made acquaintances. Then Father Mayzik invited us to pray for our new friends during Mass and throughout the week to come. I met Pete. He and I will pray for each other. I met Zack, too. He was sitting behind the choir. They all introduced themselves to him. He's going to be very busy during the week
This was such a simple solution to the strangers-in-worship problem and it was very appropriate for Good Shepherd Sunday. Not only does the Good Shepherd know his sheep. Now the sheep are getting to know one another