Had parishioners been aware of this audit checklist, they would have readily identified it as an advanced architectural blueprint for the curious new religion being fostered in the sterile, rudimentary surroundings of the parish hall and which at least represented a new and radical interpretation of, and departure from, the old one — that is, the Catholic religion of their ancestors.
Six months under Team Ministry had alerted more and more parishioners to this connection between liturgical ideas and architectural consequences. Some were even beginning to comprehend the profound theological implications of such ideas. Reread the words above about the required “hospitality” of the church building and you will see no mention of the Host but only of guests. As this article of The Wanderer noted in his commentary on the audit:
It is as if the guests have taken over the house, and put the Host under some kind of house arrest, where He will not bother them about the cause of their invitation. According to the audit, they are there to be together in some sort of meeting. According to the New Testament, they are called and commanded there to celebrate a wedding of themselves to the Eternal Majesty, and they are expected to be in proper dress, a state of purity and obedience. They are there to acknowledge the Sovereign Majesty of their Host. All of that is considered by the ancient theological requirements for the church that is the House of God and the place of His worship.’
None of it was considered in the Team’s new subjective interpretation.
Both physically and spiritually Mass in the parish hall had established twin focal points in the “presider” (priest) and the “celebrating community” (congregation), thus satisfying the newchurch audit requirements for both a “church building as an image of who we are and who we are trying to be” and a “quality of visibility; seeing others in the assembly.” This exaggerated emphasis on the “celebrating community” also formed an integral part of the Team’s vocabulary both publicly and in private discussion with parishioners, as they sought every opportunity to reinforce the idea of Mass as merely the communal meal of a “local” Church.
Most astounding of all was Fr. W’s frequent description of the Mass as a gathering together of the community “to eat and drink each other’s presence”. Father’s extraordinary metaphysical insight notwithstanding, it was obvious enough that this statement stressed an unhealthy and exaggerated emphasis on the human presence at Mass at the expense of the Divine. What was not so obvious, however, was precisely where that left Fr. W and his Team in relation to the Real Presence?
Given the bottom-line nature of this belief from a Catholic standpoint, a parishioner raised the matter one evening during a general discussion about the state of the parish with Fr. W at his office. Considering his previously mentioned statement of 18 April, when he postulated that “Christ is equally present in our coming together, singing, reading of the word and the Consecration,” Father’s response to the parishioner represented only a slight, yet significant, shift in emphasis:
Father sat there in front of me and said, “Our Lord is more present in the word than He is in the Eucharist”.