December 24, 2009

Turned away from Church

My son and I arrived at Christmas Mass at 4:00 pm today and were turned away. No tickets. Tickets? Yes, they said. It was in the bulletin. Oh? Yet not in the schedule mailed to the house? A patient smile. The priest wants to limit it. Really? My children in ccd for years at St. John and Paul's, baptized there, last week we were there as usual and his teachers didn't say anything about tickets and my son standing here upset, not allowed in with the others has never heard of this and ...oh, wait, that's not the point.

What if I was a person off the street who felt called by God to attend the Christmas Eve mass? What if I didn't attend church regularly but this was my moment, the moment I might enter the doors and feel called home with God? What if I was poor or homeless or widowed or grief-stricken and had the nerve to think I could just walk into a church and be welcomed. Tickets? I didn't realize it was a country club with Jesus as the tennis pro we've all come to see.

My son is ten. He said in the car ride back "I thought church was a place where you went and prayed to God when you needed him or just to show him you loved him." Out of the mouth of babes. And what a lesson for him to learn, that the church turns away children on Christmas Eve. What has even been the point of sending him to church when this is the larger lesson he learns: Tickets.

Tickets. Yes, it gets crowded at Easter and Christmas. I am often one of the folks in the pews wishing people wouldn't lay on the perfume when they stroll in once or twice a year to show up for God. But would I want them turned away? Never. Too many people? They opened up the basement the last year or two. Fancy, no, but is fancy the point of the church service?

Maybe they should have offered tickets at the manger. Those who were turned away at the Inn - should they in turn have turned away the shepherds? The wise men? They should have held out. Made them get tickets. Later people could have sold them on Ebay.

Jesus would be so proud.


Temple of Schlock said...

Next year go to St. Catherine's in Pelham. They're so starved for parishioners, they'll probably pay YOU. We just got back from Immaculate Conception in Eastchester, where they packed the upper AND lower churches (Y'know how the George Washington Bridge has an upper and lower? So does IC). And it was FREE.

Susan said...

Good to know, thanks Chris.

Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

How strange. I can understand it overflowing but seems like the regular attendees would be the ones who would be notified of the drill.

Meanwhile - Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Je said...

It's disappointing when "business" is mixed with religion.

Many many years, when my father passed away, I started going to the local temple to say kaddish. I joined several much older men to make a minyan, a prayer group of ten. I was 16 at the time, more than 42 years ago. Went faithfully for months.

Then the high holy days of September came. I went to the synagogue and was faced with a massive crowd. And like yourself, was turned away because I hadn't bought a ticket.

I was too young for cynicism. But never attended an evening kaddish after that.

Years later I learned something important - that religion doesn't necessarily have to be found in buildings. They're symbols of faith yes - but nothing beats prayer under the stars... :)

- Jeff

Susan said...

Jeff, I love that "nothing beats prayer under the stars" - just wonderful.