Are you being served? - 25th May 2014

Unfortunately - but perhaps inevitably - a consumer mentality increasingly impacts on worship practice, and the church is sometimes treated like a convenience store and its liturgy as a thing, a product.

The evidence:

• Demanding express service

I overheard people expressing their dissatisfaction that Mass on Palm/Passion Sunday went for just over an hour, blaming this on there being “too much music”, rather than appreciating that the Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem at the beginning of the liturgy and the long Passion Gospel inevitably mean that Mass on this day will last longer than usual. The only extra music was a brief refrain sung between sections of the Gospel reading which added a prayerful atmosphere to the proclamation – and a whole two minutes to the service!

• Expecting everything we like to be readily available

It is a great source of frustration to those who select and prepare music for Mass to have one group constantly asking why we never sing good old hymns like “Faith of our Fathers” at Mass any more while others demand the exclusive use of Hillsong music “because the youth like it”.

• Complaining to the workers when we are dissatisfied

Complaints about trivial issues concerning matters of personal taste, often unfair and unfounded, are too common in a community that calls itself Christian. Constructive criticism which includes positive feedback is fine; extreme negativity and a readiness to pass judgment without checking the facts are troubling. We seem to have forgotten what liturgy is – the gathering of the faith community to give veneration to God!

• Waiting for someone to serve us

A gentleman had a nasty fall at home as he was about to leave to set up the church an hour before Mass as he does every week. Other parishioners who covered for him as best they could at short notice were upset to see people arrive early for Mass and sit fanning themselves rather than helping to open windows and doors and turn on the fans. Nobody is paid to do these roles and there is no special expertise required to do them! If it is too much trouble to lend our fellow-parishioners a hand at Mass, how will we ever manage to live as Christians in the real world?

• Wanting it all for nothing

Even at a convenience store, you have to pay for what you buy! Some people seem to think that the Church and its personnel and resources should be there for them by right when they want to get married, or have a child baptised, or hold a funeral, despite the fact that they contribute nothing by way of time or money to the life of the community. Just like a shop!

How do we overcome this mentality? Perhaps people need to be reminded that they are the Church, that liturgy is first and foremost about God, and that with baptism comes the responsibility to follow the way of Christ who came, not to be served, but to serve.


Elizabeth Harrington