The news of the Chapel’s partnership with the Palace Theatre was published several weeks ago, explaining that the church would broadcast services during “down-time” at the Palace, in exchange for some much-needed work on the facility by their volunteers, and an upgraded sound system. It sounded very good to me at the time, since I know how the Palace struggles to raise the funds to refurbish and revitalize our community jewel. Actually, a good friend of mine from Barker had told me about the move some time ago. He and his family attend services in Getzville and this would be a much shorter drive. We had a lively debate over just how many churches there already were in the city of Lockport, of several denominations. Our paper reported a week ago that the work on space across the street at the Old Post office building was nearly complete to welcome their congregation’s children for programs. I thought it was great to see more investment and activity in downtown Lockport. Who would have believed it would stir up so much controversy!
Holy Week turned into “holy cow” week as the controversy came to light. The television news was filled with news of some disgruntled Catholics taking exception to the high-tech allure of the Chapel, worried that they were targeting disenfranchised Catholics. Well, I’m a Catholic and though I get frequently disgruntled by a myriad of societal ills, I do NOT feel targeted. No-one from the Chapel came to force me to join in their worship services or community events. Truth is, I know many Catholics who have been to the Chapel in Getzville for special programs like the popular Christmas one, and not one of them has been put under a spell to defect from Catholicism. I have several friends who attend the Chapel. Being blessed with a very ecumenical spirit, I have thoroughly enjoyed spiritual, entertaining and thought-provoking visits to houses of worship of many faiths. I embrace the sharing of cultures and ideas and share my own religious views freely. I was saddened by the news that a local priest challenged the Chapel’s intentions so vehemently.
In defense of Catholics, it has been a rough few weeks for us. Our church has been rocked by more news of heinous acts by bad Catholics, and others who helped to cover them up. The story is not new. Every church, every service organization has its share of scandal and scandalous acts by a few, it seems. Do I condone or excuse them? ABSOLUTELY NOT! We need to have it all out in the open, to sort the facts from media distortion and sensationalism. Those to blame need to be punished severely according to the laws of our society, and certainly be kept from ever being able to take advantage of innocents. But, I digress. My point is that our priests face a huge challenge every day, trying to keep the congregation happy through Diocesan changes and the changing mores of our times. On this point, let me say that even those of us who are personally unhappy about church closings or merging, or the problems within the hierarchy of the worldwide church, the vast majority remain deeply rooted in our faith. The Catholic Church is my church, warts and all. It would take more than a giant screen and great acoustics to lure me away from the message, or from my faith.
Now, I don’t mean to say that the Chapel is all gimmicks and technology. They are Christians. Members are just as devout in their faith and belief in God and Jesus as are all Christians. They, as other denominations, have their own unique way of worshipping. WhileI prefer the age-old traditions and rituals of Catholicism, others are more comfortable worshipping in other ways. In my heart, I truly believe it is NOT the people of other faiths who are a threat to me or my church. Rather, it is the people of NO faith, those who do not believe in a universal goodness that commands us to love and care for each other on this earth, that sadden me. My Catholic God gave me free will (and a chance to face the consequences for every choice I made). I have to believe that every other human in His image has the same right.
I hope that the good people of the Chapel (and the Palace) will not think poorly of the “Catholics” or believe we harbor any resentment as a whole. I understand the frustrations of our priests for many reasons, but I hope they realize that it is not what’s “out there” that will affect our loyalty to the faith. It is what’s inside; both in our hearts and in our churches. It is human nature to resist change and to feel threatened at times. It is that shared humanity that sometimes keeps us from dialogue as friends.
Christianity has survived for over 2000 years. The tree has many branches now as others seek other ways to worship, to interpret and share the Word of the same Lord. Until we sit with Him at His table, we will not have the answers to the questions that divide us. In the meantime, the best thing we can do to honor the father is to get along with all His children.
Welcome to the congregation of the Chapel.