Turn to your neighbor: A visit to my other parish

“It’s me, it’s me, it’s me Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer…”

There’s no place quite like St. Columba in Oakland. Located at the intersection of Alcatraz and San Pablo, this small Catholic Church is well-known for its activist pastor, the brilliant and affable Fr. Jayson, and its soulful Gospel Choir. I visit from time to time. Ever since I discovered Black Catholic liturgy at LA Congress(aka the Catholic Planet) a few years ago, I drive into the Town for the 10:30am Gospel Mass. I was blessed to celebrate Pentecost there last month and to see the Youth Group receive Confirmation. Today we celebrated the Birth of John the Baptist and watched two infants receive Baptism.

All Catholic parishes have something unique about them(or should. Maybe that’s why so many people leave!) In my home parish, it is the multicultural joyfulness of our celebrations. At St. Columba, it is the down-home, get out of your pew and give everyone the Sign of Peace friendliness. And the music! From the opening song to the powerful soloists to the simplicity of a sung Our Father(I always cry when we sing the For Thine is the Kingdom…”), the music is appropriately heartfelt and powerful. It is wonderful to sing and dance in praise.

The baptisms were also unique. The assembly made a pledge to both families prior to the entrace hymn. As each baby was baptized, we sang “Take me to the water…” Each baby was presented with a green and white kente cloth sash as their baptismal garment. Then each family took the baby around the church to receive the Sign of the Cross from the parishioners.

Not surprisingly, I got teary-eyed during several moments of the almost two-hour celebration. If I lived closer, I might be a member of the parish. They feel the Spirit and they live it.

My Catholic faith is something that sustains me. Visiting St. Columba helps to remind me that my faith isn’t static. It is alive.

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