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|2538: St Bernard's,
Belmont, Victoria, Australia
Worshipper: The Messenger.
Belmont, Victoria, Australia.
Roman Catholic, Archdiocese
It's rather modern, mainly sandstone and glass, and is quite
large. At the front of the auditorium is a large crucifix with
Jesusí legs bowed to the right, making a back-to-front letter
J. If there were any stained glass windows they werenít seen,
as it was dark outside. Up the front they had a heavy grey marble
looking lectern, table and chair, all with engraved gold markings
that slightly resembled fish.
They seem to be growing, as evidenced by the baptism of five
children on the night we were there. Itís a large church with
four mass services and a charismatic prayer meeting every week.
They also provide reclining chairs, towels, wheelchair and disposable
gloves for those feeling unwell. Among their ministries are
a play group for young children and a widows' group. There is
also a liturgy group that meets to plan the liturgy for high
feasts and special occasions.
Belmont is a southern residential suburb of Geelong, a port
city southwest of Melbourne. It has a higher than average number
of people who have never married and a much lower than average
number of immigrants, as well as a higher number of people who
say they have no religious affiliation. However, this church
seems to defy the 2011 census. While I didnít notice an absence
of wedding rings, there did seem to be many people of continental
European heritage, and the church was pretty full.
The entire service was led by the Revd Vince Jewell, parish
priest, who cut quite a figure with his long silvery hair tied
back in a ponytail over his white vestments.
The date & time:
Saturday, 27 April 2013, 6.30pm.
What was the name of the service?
Saturday Vigil Mass, Year C, Fifth Sunday of Easter.
How full was the building?
There were more than 400 people there filling 90 per cent of
the seats. To the apparent amazement of the clergy, the church
was quite full, even though they were competing against a game
of the local football club. My wife was surprised by the number
of trendy teenagers. However, as soon as the eucharist was received,
the back three rows of 40-50 people got up and left before the
final song had started.
Did anyone welcome you
We had a friend waiting for us, but if she wasnít there I doubt
anyone else would have greeted us, as there didnít seem to be
any designated welcomers.
Was your pew comfortable?
Modern wooden pews with no cushions, but they werenít uncomfortable
probably because we were up and down like a yo-yo.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Peaceful, warm and friendly. The auditorium was large but homely
with warm coloured lighting (no fluoro white lights). There
was a loud yet soft murmur of chattering that encouraged conversation.
Three older ladies behind us loved commenting on our four-month-old,
saying how cute he was.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good evening and welcome as we celebrate the eucharist."
What books did the congregation use during the
On entering, we were given a single-sided A4 sheet called "The
Saving Word" that contained the first reading, responsive
psalm, second reading, gospel acclamation and gospel reading.
All other responses and hymns were on PowerPoint and were flicked
up so fast that they would be missed if you blinked.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, whose player had her job cut out for her with all
the responsive sections in the psalm reading. Once she started
playing too soon. Another time she apparently missed her cue,
causing the lector to look a little awkward while he waited
and waited for the response to be played.
Did anything distract you?
The priest spoke rather fast, especially during the baptism,
which made it hard to understand him. There were times when
I had no idea what he was saying. Also, being unaccustomed to
Roman Catholic worship, I found some of the ceremony a little
strange, such as kissing the altar and the gospel book, and
the washing of hands. At one point all five eucharistic ministers
lined up at the front and rubbed their hands together.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It followed a set traditional liturgy, but you could tell that
now and then the priest was adding his own words, making the
night feel less rigid. The songs werenít those you could bop
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 I had determined to rate him a 1 for his habit of speaking
too fast to be understood, but then he stepped out from behind
the lectern and addressed the congregation more personally.
But he still gets only a 3, as I didn't see how the sermon was
connected to the readings for the day.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Love is an undeserved gift. We all have great things in us.
We just need to let God pull them out. Love the whole person,
not just physically but also spiritually.
Which part of the service was like being in
The abundance of scriptural readings and the people responding
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Not being used to these things, I felt uncomfortable as people
dipped their fingers in water and made the Sign of the Cross,
and as they venerated the crucifix and other sacred objects.
The priest kissing the altar and the gospel book also made me
uncomfortable. But the most hellish bit was the rapid evacuation
of the place within a couple of minutes at the end of the service.
Was there a bomb in the building?
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. Everyone left. No one attempted to speak with us or
anyone else for that matter. Within ten minutes the lights were
out and the building locked.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 The priest may have spurred the congregation "on
toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24-25), but they
apparently missed the part about "not giving up meeting
together". I saw no evidence of fellowship in this congregation.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. I appreciated reciting the Apostles Creed with fellow believers.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How quickly Father Vince spoke and how quickly everyone left.
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