Problems with Doors

One thing here in Papua New Guinea that always catches me by surprise is the trouble some people have with doors.   The Sunday Mass at St. Fidelis is often attended by people from the nearby villages and quite frequently, a first time visitor from one of these villages will have trouble identifying the entrance doors to the chapel.  If you look at the photo attached to this post, you will see the outside doors to the chapel.  The solid brown door on the right leads into the chapel’s sacristy.  This door is locked during Mass to avoid any problems with theft.  The double doors on the left, with louvered windows, lead directly into the chapel.

Villagers will most often try the sacristy door and when they find it locked some will become confused and stand outside the chapel not realizing that the double doors are actually doors and not windows.

I am not being disparaging when I write this.  It is simply a problem of experience.  Living in the primitive villages of Papua New Guinea doesn’t give one much experience with all the different types of doors that one usually encounters growing up in America.  At some point in my life I had to learn to distinguish different types of doors and how to use them.

Seeing this confusion as an educational issue has lead me to a new perspective on many things, including how we approach evangelization.  There is much talk of a “new evangelization” in the Church, but I know from the work I’ve done in Catholic new media that I’ve made assumptions about what people know about God and know about the Church.  Are we approaching people from the right starting place?  I know it hasn’t occurred to me that some people would have no knowledge or experience of God at all.

When we approach people, are we saying, “Open this door and come in!” without first asking “Can you recognize this as a door?”

As each generation becomes more and more secular, and their family’s experience of faith becomes more and more remote, are we saying, “Come experience God!”, before asking, “Do you know what we mean when we say ‘God’?”

It’s something I’m thinking about, but I’m sure those with real theological and philosophical education are probably laughing at my naiveté.

What do you think?  Have you thought about the assumptions you’ve made when sharing your faith with others?

8 thoughts on “Problems with Doors

  1. Just imagine any door, or even light switch. You just never know how people will be able to open these doors, or turn on and off the electricity repeatedly.

    Just saying . . . . . figuratively.

  2. That’s a good question, Steve. I guess I’ve not given it much thought. I guess I share my faith more through example than anything else. You recall that I spend a bit of time sitting on an organ bench, playing hymns and leading the music in church. Explaining the hymns to my choir, as well as, in some cases, justifying why I chose one hymn over the other gives me a chance to catechize.

    Those doors are confusing. They do, indeed, look more like windows than doors. I wonder if a sign above those doors would have helped? Move the chapel sign to above the double doors and put a sign called “Sacristy” above the single brown door? Just a thought…

    Also, some churches around here have big red doors. They tell me the red colour signifies the Holy Spirit…

    • Yeah,from a distance the doors look confusing. When you get close though, you’ll see a big square pull handle. I don’t know why the sign for the sacristy says “Chapel”, but I’m sure that’s not the biggest part of the problem since most of them would not be able to read much English.

      As for red church doors, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any like that. Hmmmm.

      • They’re pretty common with the Protestant churches here in Durham, NC. Not so much the Catholic churches here (most of which, admittedly, look like gigantic barns, but I digress…)

  3. I think your questions are really good questions! I often assume if someone wanted to know about God, the Catholic faith, or Holy Spirit…they would ask me. Now I see how narrow this assumption is. I should spend more time asking others what THEIR ideas and thoughts are. Have a conversation, learn and stop worrying about having to “evangelize”.

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