How long does it take to become invested in a parish? I’d venture to say 6 to 8 weekend Masses – around 6 to 8 weeks of attending Mass, meeting the pastor, getting to know the people who sit around you, and ‘finding your groove.” This has been the case for my new parish back in North Carolina. About two months ago I moved across town and started attending the parish less than 10 minutes from my new place rather than driving 35 to my old parish, even as much as I love that parish, the people, and the pastor.
After attending the 9:15 am Mass for six or so weeks, I needed to attending the Saturday Vigil because I would be driving all day on Sunday to visit my brother in New York. As I looked up the time, I realized that there was also an 11 am Mass every Sunday. A month of bulletin reading and website perusing before my move and six weeks of attendance – I never noticed that there were two Sunday morning options – both in English. I thought there was a noon Mass in Spanish.
[I share that Mass time story because even the most intentional Mass attendee – someone who evaluates then helps Churches grow for a living can miss an important thing that’s right there on the front of the bulletin every single week. You cannot overcommunicate to your people.]
Now after a month and a half of weekly attendance with a few daily Masses mixed in, I’m ready to join the parish. I went to the office to get a registration from (they don’t do online) and filled it out – I’ve been out of town so I haven’t returned it yet – but I’ve switched over my giving and I’ll be dropping the form off later this week to be an “official member.”
One of the things that’s helped me become enmeshed with this new parish is that I know the pastor – and he greets people before and after Mass each week. He also does the before Mass announcements where he welcomes everyone in the Church and those joining us virtually. Until Covid and the ubiquitous nature of online Mass attendance, I’d never realized how important and inclusive that small gesture is.
The power of a simple “Hello.”