A few weeks ago, I took my mom to St. Brigid’s Catholic Church in Los Angeles. After two years of stories about D.C.’s black Catholic churches, I figured we should try to visit an African-American parish in L.A. St. Brigid is located southeast of downtown Los Angeles and it is famous for its Gospel choir.
We came for the 10:30 AM Mass, which didn’t end up starting until around 10:50. The procession was led by three young men beating on drums with their hands in African-style rhythms. The priest, Father Frank, began the Mass by pouring water into a small plant and calling on the parish to remember their ancestors. I asked him about this later, and he said that it derives from West African tradition, which begins religious worship by calling on ancestors. Watering the plant is a symbol of life.
The church had some very pretty architectural elements, though it didn’t appear to have a unifying theme. There seemed to be a lot of African-inspired design elements, as well as a lot of dark green features. I did notice that while the left side of the church had a very cool looking stained glass window, the corresponding window on the right had nothing. I actually like it when churches are left partially unfinished (even unintentionally) because it’s a great symbol for mankind’s inability to achieve perfection.
The choir consisted of around a dozen members, and they did a nice job. On this particular Sunday, Beau Williams, a Gospel singer, came by to sing a few songs and sell some CD’s. He had a great voice, but I still found his rather transparent attempt to promote himself was a little bit inappropriate for Mass. After getting some applause after his first song, Beau tried to get permission from Father Frank to sing a second tune. “Later,” the priest said.
In his homily, Father Frank said that the Body of Christ is present not only in the Eucharist, but also in the church members who come together to worship as one body in Christ. Altogether it was a wonderful Mass. At the end of the Mass, visitors were asked to stand. I introduced myself, and told everyone that I had brought my mother with me. After church, a few shocked parishioners told us that they thought she was my sister. Pleased, though not surprised, my mother said: “They sure know what to say to make you want to come back.”