First, let us welcome you and let you know how happy we are that you are here. All are welcome in this place, whatever your background.
Every Catholic Church is slightly different and takes on the feeling and norms of its participants. Here at St. Columba, this is no different. At a minimum, you should feel safe and welcomed. Please know that it is our intent to be inclusive, authentic, and loving.
You may have some questions. Hopefully, this answers some. If you have more, you can ask us here.
What does "in the African-American tradition" mean?
We sing alot, and African-American spirituals are a consistent part of our repertoire. Our phrases include "let the church say" and "we know who and whose we are". The saints on our wall, the Cross above us, and the symbols on our door reflect our African-American identity. However, you will not be lost coming from other Roman Catholic churches no matter their particular background. The liturgy and its celebration are consistent and familiar to anyone who has been to a Catholic Mass. To anyone who hasn't, you don't know the difference but we hope it's beyond your expectations.
What should I wear?
We don't care. First, get here. Kids in tow, out too late last night, or ready with Bible in hand, we'll be happy to see you. However, if you
worried about not standing out, some in our congregation wear the Liturgical colors. During Advent, you may see someone in a purple tie or a "dusty rose" (aka pink) shirt but it's not everyone. It really varies from suits and beautiful hats to Oakland Raiders t-shirts and jeans. If you're lucky, you might see the Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver dressed for a special event.
What about children?
We adore the sound of children and believe it shows a vibrant community. There are many children in our congregation. School age children may go to faith formation class or stay with you. Faith formation usually lasts from before the first reading until the sign of the peace. If a child is being too fussy, we have a chapel near the back of the church that can give you some privacy while still being able to see and hear what's going on. But children of any age and disposition are not only tolerated but celebrated.
I'm not very mobile. Are you accessible?
Yes, we have ramps to get you into the church, disabled parking, and ushers at each door to help you in and out. We have both chairs and pews so that we can re-arrange our seating to make sure you feel part of the congregation.
What Might Be Different during the Mass?
The sign of the Peace
Most Catholics are familiar with two kinds of Peace:
Catholic Chess: Where you act like a King chess piece and only give peace to people immediately around you. That is not us.
We are "Roamin' Catholics". We will mingle around and greet lots of people until the piano starts playing. It's like the awards shows where the band starts to let you know your time is up. About a third of us circulate and the rest stand by to receive.
The presentation of the Eucharist
The Eucharist is very important to us. To remind us of the humbleness that that we should enter into receiving, we practice "the last shall be first". In other words, the people in the back rows go forward first with each row in front after them. The ushers will help with the flow so you don't have to remember this.
That is definitely in the African-American tradition, even with an Irish priest many times conducting it. It can be participatory, passionate, and a towel may sometimes be needed for the homilist. Those who conduct it tie in the readings with current events in our community, social justice and other Catholic teachings, and the world around us. We hope that it leaves you challenged, hopeful, and with a better understanding of who and whose you are.
How long is the Mass?
In full disclosure, it is not short. The 10:30 Mass normally goes 1 1/2-2 hours. The 8:00 Mass is generally slightly shorter. Children have told us it seems a lot shorter than it is probably due to the movement we have singing and praising. There are several good restaurants nearby for lunch and the hall has seating and tables available if you want to bring something.
What about after the Mass?
There is coffee, tea, water, donuts, and healthy snacks after each Mass for camaraderie and fellowship. That happens in the hall next to the church. There may be a speaker on a particular topic, such as World AIDs Day or Haitian education. We also have Family Faith Days about once a month. Finally, we have lunches served as fundraisers about once a month that are ofen "in the African-American tradition" with a special kinship it seems towards New Orleans.