Friendly Protestants, Unfriendly Catholics


#1

Protestants do a better job at being welcoming and friendly to newcomers in their churches than us Catholics, it seems. I don’t want to overgeneralise - I’ve been to both welcoming Catholic churches and unfriendly Protestant churches, but there seems to be a definite trend, which doesn’t seem to be confined solely to my own experience.

Having been to Protestant churches of various denominations, I’ve seen some that were no different from a typical Catholic church, and others that were overfriendly to the point of feeling cultish and false, but I have usually been left with a good impression, even though sometimes the church felt more like a social club than a place of worship. Nevertheless, many churches I’ve been to have been both reverent, sincerely welcoming and social.

So they often do try and make people feel as welcome as possible and get the message that they’re pleased to see you across quite well - better than we seem to.

Now, Protestant congregations, based on my experience, generally seem to be significantly smaller than Catholic ones, which probably plays a role in that it reduces anonymity, but how could we Catholics, especially those in larger congregations, do a better job?


#2

It’s not all that complicated. Just make it a habit to smile at people and be interested in them before and after Mass.

Use common courtesy during Mass and while in the Church - be aware of where people are physically located in the space, where they would like to get to, and how you can help them get from the one place to the other place with a minimum of upset.

Yes, it’s annoying when people arrive late, but it doesn’t cost us anything to smile at them and make space for them in our pew. It also doesn’t cost anything to wait for a few seconds after Holy Communion to make sure that everyone who is returning has in fact returned, before putting the kneeler down.


#3

I used to be very reserved due to shyness but I trained myself out of it. I would smile at someone and if they smiled back I would say Hello.

I think regulars at a Mass could approach a stranger and say Hello and introduce themselves. How could it hurt? I used to do it all the time at my last parish which was smaller and visitors and strangers stood out.


#4

During Mass, I’m there to hear, listen, and received the Lord. There is no time for socializing. We can socialize after the Mass.


#5

I think this is very true and it could be because of the size of our parishes. Also, demographics have changed. In the ‘old days’ everyone in a neighborhood usually shared common backgrounds, i.e. the ethnic neighborhoods of the big city. People would worship together, live together, die together…it was a different feeling.

With that in mind, I feel that one of the things I learned in my 12 Step program was the importance of welcoming a newcomer. I try to apply that to my parish in even a small way. As a part of the RCIA Team I try very hard to reach out to all members, but especially the new ones who could feel a bit ‘lost in the shuffle’…this might mean saying to some people “Are you going to the fish fry this week? I’llmeet you there if you want to have dinner together…”


#6

I feel sure that she meant to say “at Church,” referring to the period of time before Mass and after Mass when we are still at the Church, rather than “at Mass”, since no one would expect to socialize while the Mass is actually going on - I hope! :wink:


#7

Yes, I did mean after Mass. During Mass I often have a bit of a problem with the ‘socialising’ that goes on during the Sign of Peace.:frowning:


#8

Yes, that bugs me, too. The idea behind it is that we give a sign of peace to those around us as a symbol that we wish to be reconciled with everyone in the world. But we shouldn’t be having conversations with people, or saying anything to them besides, “The peace of Christ be with you,” or “And also with you.”

But eye contact at this time is a good thing, and so is an appropriate, respectful gesture of friendship - in North America, the usual gesture is a handshake. (Flashing peace signs at everyone is probably not appropriate.)


#9

originally posted by Mannyfit75
During Mass, I’m there to hear, listen, and received the Lord. There is no time for socializing. We can socialize after the Mass.

Amen brother!!!


#10

I have two thoughts about this.

First, my parish is quite welcoming. I didn’t feel welcome, but that was my own insecurities. People ARE welcoming. The various groups have welcoming tables and we have greeters. The parish is what you make of it. If someone feels like an outsider after experiencing it, I would say you aren’t trying harder.

Second, I have been in and been a member of Protestant churches that basically threw a parade for new members. Very fake, very empty calorie ish.

Now I feel that if your church is not welcoming, then it’s YOUR responsibility to help out to make it so. But, when I come to mass, I don’t want anyone chatting it up with me as I enter. It is an honor to be in His presence, and I am focused on entering and respecting the space I am in.


#11

Maybe start a “welcoming committee” of some sorts and have these people at each Mass in the gathering space with information on the Church and its activities. Also, the priest could make an announcement acknowledging their existence so folks know who to go to for the information and to feel welcome. :smiley:


#12

well, I’ve been living in Texas for 1 1/2 years now. It seems to me there are a whole lot of nice people at my church. :wink:

Also, Texans seem to be more relaxing, I think …uh…except while they are on the road. lolz. I don’t like being followed so closed [do you call it tailgate?]. :smiley:


#13

One of the things I most like about Catholic worship is that it is focused on the Lord, and not on socializing. I like the sense of anonymity I feel when I go to Mass, being in prayer, worshipping our Lord, receiving Him in the Eucharist, without having to endure a bunch of backslapping. I’m not putting Protestants down, mind you. I understand that they’ve had to find something to fill the Very Big Hole left by their throwing the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus out the door. Socializing and loud sermons seem to take their minds off the missing Lord.

And, I do agree that Catholic parishes can appear to be a little cold compared to a typical evangelical gathering, but appearances can be deceiving.


#14

Many Catholics automatically assume that a new face in the congregation is a “visiting” Catholic doing their Sunday obligation. Therefore, they’ll probably be gone next week. And being lazy like me :frowning: they won’t go out of their way to be friendly.

At Protestant churches, isn’t it likely that a new face is actually there because they are “checking it out?” And therefore, if you want to reel them in, you better be nice?

This is all theory of course. I’m all for being nice to new faces :slight_smile:


#15

I think alot of people are generalizing. At my home parish if we see someone new, we make a point to say hi before or after mass, but when I went to mass in a nearby city… not one person acknowledged my presence (which was fine with me… I didn’t expect anyone to approach me). If I were to venture a guess, I would have to say it depends more on where the church is located…rural town or city, and how close the next Catholic Church is to that location (in a city there are several Catholic Churches, out in the country they are spaced out more so everyone knows who the “new” folks are or the “visitors.”

When I was new, this woman said hi to me every week and I said hi back. I had no clue who she was until we ran into each other at a night club about a year later. She came over, extended her hand and said, “I see you every Sunday, What is your name?” When I told her my name she laughed and called her husband and several friends over. She then tells me her name, same as mine. It turns out she unwittingly was the one who almost made me run away from this parish when I moved here. You see I didn’t know there was anyone else with my same name (I got remarried so we don’t anymore). Anyway, when I called the parish office for the first time, they asked who was calling. When I said my name they acted like they knew me all my life…“oh hi Mary, how are you doing?” (they did know her all her life!) Way to friendly!!! I was actually scared of how chummy this church seemed to be…until I found out they thought they were talking to her!!! It was comical!

I used to go drop my kids off for PSR (ccd) and then go over to the church and pray for an hour before mass started. It was my one hour away from my kids when I was a single mom, and I treasured my time in God’s house by myself. One day I was praying as a few people arrived and a few moments later there was a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to the most pleasant woman apologizing for disturbing my prayer, but she sees me every week and she wanted to meet me. So, she introduces herself as Sister Anita. She has become my all time favorite nun.

One Sunday as I was going to mass I heard a woman I had never seen before getting all excited when she saw the Divine Mercy picture on the wall next to the confessional. I made a point of introducing myself and asked where she was from. Turns out she was visiting to see if she would like to move here. She asked if we had Divine Mercy Chaplet and I directed her to the next parish over on Sunday afternoons. She was so happy that she moved here. I see her at mass all the time and she always makes a point of saying hello if I don’t see her first. Like I said… small towns are probably more cognizant of visitors and new folks.


#16

Rumor has it that the release of “Sacramentum Caritatis” next week may partially fix that problem by moving the sign of peace to a more appropriate part of the Mass (although not eliminating it)! :thumbsup: We’ll have to wait and see, but it is mentioned in the draft document that was released…


#17

Do you have a web link for that?


#18

Yes. Here’s some links to the announcement of the document:

Catholic World News:
cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=49672

and

Catholic News Agency:
catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=8790

And here’s a link to part of the “rough draft” that was released by the Vatican. Keep in mind that the final document will likely add many points and delete many as well. This proposition may or may not make the final cut. The translation is from Zenit.org.

zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=79161

**Proposition 23

The Sign of Peace**

The greeting of peace in the Holy Mass is an expressive sign of great value and depth (cf. John 14:27). However, in certain cases, it assumes a dimension that could be problematic, when it is too prolonged or even when it causes confusion, just before receiving Communion.

Perhaps it would be useful to assess if the sign of peace should take place at another moment of the celebration, taking into account ancient and venerable customs.


#19

Thanks! Wow, trying to think about where this would fit best.:hmmm:


#20

One of the things I most like about Catholic worship is that it is focused on the Lord, and not on socializing. I like the sense of anonymity I feel when I go to Mass, being in prayer, worshipping our Lord, receiving Him in the Eucharist, without having to endure a bunch of backslapping. I’m not putting Protestants down, mind you. I understand that they’ve had to find something to fill the Very Big Hole left by their throwing the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus out the door. Socializing and loud sermons seem to take their minds off the missing Lord.

Took the words right out of my mouth!

Since I’ve moved and have had to seek a new Parish, I’ve had to extend myself with others when I attend their Churches. I stop people in the parking lot before or after the Mass, or attend the ubiquitious “coffee and donut” gatherings and ask questions. People will be exceedingly friendly when they know you are new.


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