Friday, June 02, 2006

consolidation of parishes a good thing?

Many Catholics these days are justifiably afraid of parish closings and mergers, given the shortage of clergy that, while more severe in other countries like France, is still bound to affect Americans as well.

At the same time, I wonder if this won’t be a good thing. With fewer parishes around, there will be less “parish shopping”, which, in turn, will anchor people more securely to their geographical parish. Pastoral ministers - not just priests, but musicians as well - will have a bit more freedom to try out new things, with less fear that people will simply go to the neighboring parish.

This isn’t a solidly built theory or anything, just an idea that has occurred to me as people warn me that if I don’t plan music people like, they will leave our parish. ISTM, then, that maybe people need a bit of “Mom says to eat your peas”; liturgical music should, given good quality of the music, have a sort of relative universality that eschews many stylistic preferences. (I do think chant accomplishes this admirably.)

4 Comments:

At Monday, June 05, 2006 9:09:00 AM, Anonymous moconnor said...

I think consolidation might actually create the opposite of what you think might happen. In my experience the larger parishes are the ones with the most pandering musical styles (i.e., lots of amplifiers, performing cantors, liturgy committees that look at the Pentecostal church with envy..). It's the smaller parishes where traditional liturgy and music have the best chance to survive. First, because these parishes are just happy to have ANYONE providing music and second, they become kind of like "charter schools" where the traditionalists can gather without scorn. It's not healthy, I agree, but until the American bishops decide that the Church's faith identity is more important that having big numbers, we'll be in this situation.

moconnor

 
At Monday, June 05, 2006 3:06:00 PM, Blogger PrayingTwice said...

Interesting premise that I'm not sure I agree with.

On one hand, think of the rise in quality of liturgical musicians if fewer parishes were hiring. Also, with more people crowding in fewer churches, salaries would potentially go up (so we'd almost be paid what we're worth:)

On the other hand, it would be a damn shame to lose a place like my current parish to consolidation. The place has a great "community" feel (in a good way), people are eager to sing, they are appreciative of the music that I provide, and few leave after communion to stay for the recessional hymn. Unfortunately they're not giving enough to keep the place afloat.

I agree with moconnor somewhat as well; the most abysmal examples of liturgy and music that I have witnessed have been in these parishes of 4000 families.

 
At Monday, June 05, 2006 6:09:00 PM, Anonymous brandon field said...

I don't think that the "shopping around" that is feared is exclusively between Catholic parishes. Catholics think that they're competing for congregations with the likes of Willow Creek and Vineyard. I don't think that the answer lies in chant, or any other form of music, I think the answer lies in proper catchesis of the laity. If the faithful understood the nature of what was going on in the Mass, the type of music being sung would become insignificant in their choices of a parish. In particular, if the Catholic faithful were to live as evidence to the Truth that the Church contains, the 1962 vs. 1970 question would be completely irrevelant and relegated to a simple preference.

When Catholics design their parishes and their musical programmes in response to the Willow Creeks of the world, that is selling far short the Truth that the Church is witness too.

 
At Tuesday, June 06, 2006 6:25:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

Brandon,

I definitely agree that the answer to people leaving the Church lies not in placating their musical tastes, but in catechesis.

I am actually of the opinion that people should not “shop” for a parish; it is the bishop’s job to ensure that all the parishes in the diocese effectively teach the faith and differ only in minor cultural ways (which may or may not be reflected in the liturgy).

I do, though, think that liturgical music needs to communicate a sense of profundity in order to be effective. There was probably a lot of really bad music being written in the early 17th century, but we just don’t know about it because musicians learn about Schütz instead. Fast-forwarding a couple centuries, why study Joachim Raff when there’s Beethoven?

A lot of Richard Proulx’s music works for me, and there is some Haugen I like (the psalms 25 and 34, for example, and Mass of Creation). But, I mean, .... I think some things Carey Landrey wrote are REALLY questionable: “The Spirit is a-Movin’”?

 

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