Confession of a Parish Shopper

At NCR, Millennial writer Mike Jordan Laskey writes:

I’m a little bashful to admit to church shopping. I like the idea that Catholics don’t belong to congregations but to parishes, geographic areas as much as physical church plants. Historically, Catholics haven’t picked where we go to Mass. We just show up where our home address dictates. But times are different now: Parishes are closing or merging throughout much of the country, making ties weaker. Folks like us are transient and relocate more often than in prior eras, and our culture’s emphasis on individual choice means people travel to find communities they like best without so much as a second thought.

I remember hearing a debate about parish shopping at a Catholic conference I attended years ago. One panelist argued that we should just go to our local parish and offer our gifts to make it better. The other panelist, who had compiled a list of best parishes for young adults around the country, just said, “You’ve got to go where you’re fed.” At this stage of life, I find myself in the latter camp. I am leading my family’s church-shopping endeavor. Here is my confession.

Each place we walk into, I deeply hope to see at least one person I recognize, which I would interpret as a sign from God. 

We barely know anyone in our new area, but as my wife and I both work for the institutional church, our Catholic rolodex is full. I instinctively scan each church we enter in search of someone we could say hi to. This must reflect my deep longing for community. In a new place, we are so anxious to meet people and make connections. Starting almost 100 percent from scratch is intimidating….

The single most appealing thing about a parish is if everyone is singing.

I’ll forgive a lot of shortcomings if you’ve got a parish that sings. Have you ever encountered a parish that sings that’s not active in a host of additional ways? On the flipside, have you ever seen a parish where nobody sings that’s dynamic otherwise? I didn’t think so. Plus, if singing really is praying twice, as St. Augustine might have said, my wife and I need to cram as much prayer into as short a period as possible these hectic days.