Late last year, I started going along to the Saturday evening family Mass at the Cathedral – partly because my friends were instrumental in running it, and partly because I wanted to support it as a new (well, reinstated) venture at the Cathedral.
This may sound counter-intuitive, given how much I value the choir community, but I’ve never really felt like a member of the Cathedral congregation as a whole. I’m a member of the choir, not the parish, and while the choir forms my family and my community, the larger Cathedral parish has always existed on the periphery of that. There’s a lot of names I don’t know, although faces are familiar, and I’d be willing to bet that up until recently, for most parishioners I’d be some variation of “that curly-haired chorister”, if I was anything to them at all.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that the parish community is unfriendly – quite the reverse – or that I feel a sense of exclusivity, despite my the honour I take in being a chorister. Much of my reticence has been fear, needing not to be noticed, and needing to keep myself to myself as I continue to work out how to heal, how to reach out to real people who know nothing of me or my history, who have no reason to care for me.
Surprisingly, going to the family Mass has changed that. It’s a small community of regulars, some of whom attend Sunday morning services, some of whom attend only the family Mass. For the first time, I’m learning names of people other than those connected in some way with the choir. And, while I wouldn’t call them friendships, my circle of acquaintances is growing, and I’m treasuring that. Now, when I enter the Cathedral as part of a choir for Sunday Mass, there are people who know me, and who say hello to me as an individual, not as part of a robed musical collective. And there are people I say hello to by name. And that’s nice.
This evening when I entered the Cathedral – alone, unusually, not accompanied by the few fellow choristers, good friends who also attend the family Mass – I was greeted by name by three different people. And there was joking, and I entered into banter and all of a sudden to those people I am more than simply a chorister.
And it turns out that I’d missed that. That making my first forays into the wider Cathedral community is actually something I’ve been needing to do. And that being called by my name – being a real person – is actually a pretty huge deal.