The Project doesn't often go to the same church more than once. Part of that is our busy schedule, but it's also because few churches offer such a powerful experience that they warrant repeat trips.
That was the case with Project-fave St. Martin de Porres, which I last visited in December 2007. At the time I wrote:
The Fat Girl Principle: It’s baaaack! What, did you think I would venture to 24th & Lehigh without attracting any attention? We got the usual “visitors please stand and introduce yourselves," which never, ever gets any easier. Beyond that, we were greeted warmly by all parishioners, and several exhorted us to come back.
Sorry, the Project is by definition a nomad, although this is one church I would definitely like to see again.
It’s not the most prosperous parish, but their energy and determination would put most to shame.
The intervening 21 months have taken me far from St. Martin, but I've kept in touch with Father Ed and made repeated promises to find a way back. Today, I finally made the time to do so.
The parish is still passionate, the building is still pretty (actually, far prettier than I remembered it being), and Father Ed still "rules over the proceedings with a lively mixture of passion and humor." In this case, regaling the audience with some of the dance moves he learned at a couple of weddings earlier in the weekend. Good stuff. Oh, and he still loves the Project. Even better.
Perhaps most important, and this is a point I can only make now, with more experience under my belt: Martin de Porres has resisted the urge to tamper with its decor. In a time and a place where small and struggling parishes remove pews or move the altar out or do other wacky things, the building still looks very much like I imagined it did back in St. Columba's heyday.
A little grittier, sure, a little rougher around the edges. But it still has all of the pews, the altar and altar rail are still where they should be, and I can't tell you how happy the makes the Project. It's not easy to find architectural traditionalists, especially in scuffling parishes. It takes guts, and the proper sense of history and space.
St. Martin and Father Ed have that, and the Project solutes them for it. Keep up the good work.