14 October 2012

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church

After several busy weekends, I finally got back to church this weekend, attending Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the Anacostia neighborhood of Southeast Washington. It's one of the churches that I wrote about in my research paper last year on Washington's black Catholic churches, and was founded in 1921 after black members of St. Teresa of Avila parish decided to form their own church.

I had to drag my lazy, out of shape legs up Morris Rd. to get to OLPH, which is located on a big hill with a pretty nice view of the city. The church building, constructed in the 70s, had a very unusual diamond shape. I liked it though, since it allowed the parishioners to sort of sit surrounding the altar as opposed to just having long vertical rows.

The parish serves an interesting contrast to St. Teresa of Avila parish, which is only a few blocks down the road. I've written before about STA (here) and their spirited, emotionally charged service. Our Lady of Perpetual Help had a much more conservative feel; although incorporating the Gospel choir and many of the conventions of traditional African-American worship, there wasn't so much raw emotion and intensity. That isn't to say it wasn't a nice service: they had a twenty person Gospel choir which sounded great and a very talented, multi-tasking piano player. At one point I saw him simultaneously playing the piano, giving hand signals to the choir, standing to see what the priest was doing, and flipping his sheet music at the same time. They closed with a beautiful rendition of "I Have Decided to Make Jesus My Choice."