Posts Tagged ‘ Catholic ’

Divine Saviour Catholic Church, Part I – Visited on 12/4

By the time the traveler comes within sight of Divine Saviour Catholic Church of York, SC, he’s stopped expecting it.  The long cruise down Highway 321 into the outskirts of York passes several churches—white walled one-story affairs, Baptist and Methodist churches with seating within for a few dozen, their modest spires perched atop structures that could easily convert into auto part stores or hardware suppliers.

By the time the seeker turns down Herndon towards Divine Saviour, those buildings are well past.  The journey has taken her into residential blocks, brick and wood family homes garlanded with trees.  There’s a creeping suspicion that she’s taken a wrong turn, that the church is already somewhere behind.  And then, in the midst of respectable suburban housing, there it is: a broad, two-story structure of red brick, the arch of its roof topped with a modest black cross, surrounded by a lean horseshoe of parking with a broader lot across the street.

Without that cross and the church’s sign by the road, it could be a neighborhood library or a small civic building, but the white plaster statue of Jesus out front soon dispels such notions.  The plaster is weathered with age, the fingers of one hand snapped off some time ago, but the robed figure still beckons in parishioners as they make their way to Mass.

Inside, Divine Saviour is all red brick—walls, ceiling, floors, everything is warm earth tones and yellow light.  From the outside the church is unimposing—which makes the size and grandeur of its sanctuary all the more impressive.  With seating for over a hundred, the principal space of Divine Saviour is two stories of empty air, the rafters of its arched roof bare and dark above, hung with cylindrical electric lamps on long, black cords that dangle from on high.

The walls are adorned with remarkable artwork: all the ‘Stations of the Cross,’ the ritual progression of Jesus’s march towards crucifixion, with the figures of each scene done in abstract, wrought iron sculpture upon backgrounds of bare wood.  The far wall, behind the silk-hung altar and the speaker’s pulpit, is dominated by a high arched alcove within which hangs the church’s crucifix.  In like style to the portraits at either hand the wrought iron figure of Christ crucified projects from the alcove, lit from beneath, moored by iron spars extended from the wall behind.  Viewed face on the crucifix seems to hang in midair, stark and mournful, as befits the representation of a man in the midst of one of Imperial Rome’s more inventively torturous execution sentences.

Two columns of pews fill the sanctuary’s floor space, and on the morning of the 4th of December, the second Sunday of Advent—the month-long Christian celebration of the birth of their savior—at least a hundred and fifty parishioners filled their bare wooden seats.  There are few affordances for comfort on those rigid benches—like the slave-carved pews of Allison Creek Baptist Church, they are meant to keep the worshipper focused on matters spiritual, not temporal pleasures.

The parishioners themselves arrived in a mixture of casual and formal dress, a distinction that seemed due more to personal preference than any defined tradition.  There was no separate ‘Children’s Church’ as one finds in some Protestant worship services—the congregation’s children stayed with their parents throughout Mass, and more than once the cries of the little ones made their presence felt.

Music in that morning’s Mass came from a proficient, well-drilled choir fronted by a trio of singer-guitarists and backed by a strident keyboard.  Their performances filled the spaces between each article of the Catholic Mass, prescribed by centuries (if not a millennia and more) of tradition and followed by Catholic churches the world over that morning.

That morning’s sermon was delivered by the church’s deacon, not the priest.  In recognition of Advent he drew upon the early verses of the Book of Mark, advising the listening parishioners that, like John the Baptist who baptized early believers in the wilderness, it was their role to speak out in their society and prepare the way for the second coming of their savior, as they believe John did for his first appearance.

This is the first of two articles on Divine Saviour Catholic Church.  Come back later this week and we’ll sit down with Divine Saviour’s resident priest, Father Adilso Coehlo.