Dear Sisters and Brothers of Saint Therese Parish Community,
Thank you once again for your warm welcome at my Installation as your Pastor last weekend. There are very few things more heartening than to be made to feel welcomed in a new place that over time becomes “home”. In the well travelled wisdom our brothers and sisters in AA offer us in their Big Book: “Beginnings are important, even if we have to begin over and over and over and over again.”
Speaking of feeling welcomed and of “new beginnings”, we as a Church are fast approaching the season of Advent, the four week beginning of the Church year followed by Christmas and the Epiphany. It is that “most wonderful time of the year” and after all that has happened this past year, couldn’t we all use a time of hope and healing? I have seen again and again in my forty-three years as a priest that when people feel safe and wanted, welcomed and loved, no matter where they are on their life’s journey, they begin to deepen and heal in amazing ways. And that’s who we are as a Catholic parish community here in Montauk -a place of safety and welcome, of love and forgiveness, of hope and promise. And that is what Advent and Christmas and Epiphany are all about.
So I have been pondering how we might re-create a safe, prayerful and welcoming environment, particularly in the church and at our weekend liturgies, especially at a time when more and more people are telling me that they want to come back to church again after some time away because of personal reasons or because of Covid. How do we both socially distance and gather? How do we lift up our voices when we are asked not to sing indoors? And how do we tell the story of our parish to newcomers, or to those who think the church will fall down if they show up, if we can’t have social activities until we have a vaccine?
So let’s find a way with the new season of Advent and Christmastide as a perfect opportunity. With Louise Carman, our Director of Religious Education, and Kyle McCann, our Music Director, we asked a small group of parishioners to watch some online courses on liturgy and church architecture, then to meet and offer suggestions. We asked them to pay particular attention as to how the narthex of the church, our welcoming space, the place where the parish tells it’s story as soon as someone enters the door, might be arranged for that purpose during the season of Advent. How someone is welcomed, how they feel when they enter that space, may make all the difference in their choice to “come home for Christmas”. I also asked them to take a look at our Reconciliation Room. Is it inviting, safe, comfortable? One of our young men who is receiving Confirmation this weekend has made his service project to move the music books stored in the Reconciliation Room up to the choir loft. His grandmother is helping him. It is a huge job. So thank you to Noah and his grandma!
We also have a great carillon put in by Father Tom and some very generous parishioners. So maybe we can choose some warming Advent and Christmas carols to ring out in the village along with those of the Community Church up the hill.
Let me know what you think.
Blessings and peace,
Father Bob, C.P.Pastor