Monday, December 14, 2009

My Ecumenical Santa Lucia Day

Last night, we went to St. Joseph Polish National Catholic Church in Davie, Florida. My suburban Lutheran church's choir had been invited to be part of a festival. I was excited, anticipating music of the season and the dinner afterwards.

We were treated to a truly ecumenical event. We sang the first verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" in three languages (English, Polish, and Spanish). We had a Spanish Guitar Ensemble, and choirs which sang in multiple languages (but primarily English and Spanish). We had representation by a number of churches: Lutheran (both ELCA and Missouri Synod), Catholic, some Franciscan monks, and one of our area megachurches. The audience was even more ecumenical; we even had a person who self-identified as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

I found myself a bit confused: were we worshipping or were we having a concert? If we were worshipping, I wanted a few people to turn off their cameras and settle down. In some ways, we seemed to be worshipping: we had singing, we had Bible readings, we had a sermonette where we were asked to invite Christ into our hearts. Even if we had already done so, the priest told us that Christ liked to be invited again. It creeped me out a bit and took me back to 5th grade, where I attended a Presbyterian school; we had chapel every Friday, where we were scared to death by tales of hell, and I prayed fervently for Jesus to enter my heart. The following Friday, I did it again; what if Christ hadn't heard me before, what with all my classmates around me praying for the same thing?

Yet at the same time, the experience felt more like a concert, with lots and lots of singing. In the end, it was a bit exhausting, as the whole thing lasted 3 hours. And I didn't hear much music that I recognized. I wanted music to put me in a Christmas mood, not music that I'd have to concentrate upon to figure out whether I would like it or not.

We didn't stay for dinner, even though it smelled yummy. We looked at the slow-moving line and figured out we wouldn't be eating until after 9 p.m., a bit late for me.

But the night wasn't a complete bust. I learned about the Polish National Catholic Church, a group I'd never heard of before. I'd driven by the church, but assumed it was a Catholic church of some kind. I enjoyed sitting in the sacred space. I loved the few pieces of Christmas music that I recognized. I appreciated the community ecumenical spirit of the event. I just wish that my Advent didn't feel so jam packed so that a concert that stretches beyond the 2 hours I had budgeted for it feels like a serious imposition. Something to think about for next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You were correct in your previous thinking...the Polish National Catholic Church is a Catholic Church of some kind.

Originally part of the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht, the PNCC (which has parishes in the US, Canada, Poland, Norway and Italy) has shared a 20+ year dialog with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

for more info about the PNCC (or National Catholic Church as those of us who are not Polish tend to call it) check out or