Slight error in Sunday column

My pastor, Msgr. Leigh Lehocky, gently corrected me this morning. My column said St. Peter’s "Parishioners live in something like 35 ZIP codes." He told me the number is now 46.

I probably remember the 35 figure from back when I was president of the parish council, back in the early 90s. I’ve heard different numbers since then, and consider it one of those wobbly numbers that can never be perfectly correct — even if you give the precise count for right now, based on parish registration, registration itself is a fuzzy thing — not everyone who attends our masses is registered, and some who are registered could have left us.

My point was that it was a bunch of ZIP codes, and I knew I would not be exaggerating if I said 35, so I covered myself by saying "something like." Bottom line, I’m right — it’s a bunch.

Msgr. Lehocky reminded me of something else I’d forgotten. Speaking of The Big Sort, the book that inspired the Robert Samuelson column that inspired my column, he said, "That’s the book I was telling you about a couple of weeks ago." Monsignor had been reading it, and recommended it to me. All I knew was that when I read the title in the Samuelson piece, I knew that I recognized it from a recent conversation; I had forgotten with whom.

Msgr. Lehocky said the book beats up on churches for the usual MLK thing (about 11 a.m. Sunday being the most segregated hour in America), but agreed that St. Peter’s was something of an exception to that "rule."

"And thank God for that," he added.

And perhaps our parish — and particularly the sub-community of those of us who habitually attend the only Mass that is bi-lingual — is an exception. But it’s the only church community I have, so my point that I don’t have the kinds of associations Mr. Bishop writes of — at least, not in any form that comes to mind — holds true.

10 thoughts on “Slight error in Sunday column

  1. Richard L. Wolfe

    Did the blog just get spammed?
    Through the years I have been to many different churches. I have never known any church of any denomination or racial majority that refused anyone for any reason. If they are segregated then the people are segregating themselves.

  2. p.m.

    I’m wondering: Did you post about this non-error error just to tell us you were president of the parish council back in the ’90s?
    Or was it to score more political correctness points for attending a bilingual service in a church that’s not just non-segregated but literally non-characteristic?
    Here’s just saying that the United Methodist church I attend (not with absolutely stunning regularity) has members mostly from the same ZIP code who are 99 percent white, though the district superintendent is black.
    We don’t speak Spanish, either, or French or German or Mandarin. We might be lost souls in need of a spiritual home, but we aren’t lost souls in search of a geographical home, or folks determined to be a part of something that isn’t mainstream.
    But, lo and behold, I have heard no one preach hate from the pulpit.
    And, by jiminy, no one has preached politics, either.
    There is a certain uniformity about us, and yet I would tell you I am like no one else there, when I know that I am, in more ways than just what shows.
    Which brings me, finally, to my point here. It’s pretty amazing that you wrote about how Samuelson’s assertion, that people prefer to be with people like themselves, isn’t true for you, even at church, but, in so doing, you proved that Samuelson was exactly right, even about you.
    You and your fellow parishioners don’t have a lot in common, you preached:
    “Oh, but you’re Catholic, you might say. Do you know what ‘catholic’ means? It means ‘universal.’ At the Mass I attend, we sometimes speak English, sometimes Spanish, and throw in bits of Greek and Latin here and there. The priest who often as not celebrates that Mass is from Africa. Parishioners live in something like 35 ZIP codes. There are black, white and brown people who either came from, or their parents came from, every continent and every major racial group on the planet. My impression, from casual conversations over time, is that you would find political views as varied as those in the general population. Sure, more of us are probably opposed to abortion than you generally find, but that’s not a predictor of what we think about, say, foreign policy.”
    So there you sit, in a church whose denomination means “universal” but which in South Carolina is relatively rare, hence parishioners from 35 ZIP codes — oops, 46, the same number as counties in South Carolina — worship there.
    Yet you don’t see that in being “so various, so beautiful, so new” (forgive me, Matthew Arnold) that the lot of you have as much in common as skin color or political preference?
    What you share is your willingness to gather without apparent commonality, and I would assert that’s it more a preference than a willingness. You are probably
    the same in that your lack of commonality keeps you at a comfortable distance from each other (for, after all, being from 46 ZIP codes means most of you have some literal distance from each other) and embellishes your worship experience: You are one in God, and yet so far flung otherwise, people willing to be Catholics in a state where Catholics are anything but the mainstream, probably congratulating yourselves for being part of the new world order at the old world church.
    But that’s OK. Think you’re different if you want, no matter how universal you are, and you can hitch your wagon to a star way yonder off far. Even if you can’t shoot par or toss ’em down like the good ol’ boys at the corner bar, you might just catch eternity in a jar.
    Or at least think you can.

  3. Brad Warthen

    And Richard, I believe the point of “The Big Sort” is that people ARE segregating themselves — in churches, in neighborhoods, in the Blogosphere…
    The irony here is that the author, Mr. Bishop, knows about this because he does it himself — living in a neighborhood of like-minded liberals. For my part, I can’t find parallels to his situation in my own life, and perhaps that’s because I don’t TRY to associate only with like-minded individuals. (Of course, one reason I don’t try is that I don’t see such individuals out there. There will be a set of people who agree with me on ONE thing, another set that agree with me on another, and so on, through issue after issue. I simply don’t believe that thinking people can be comfortable in the Republican or Democratic parties, whose members agree to agree with each other about everything, thereby saving their members from the burden of thinking.)
    It seems to me that Mr. Bishop could unsort himself, if he chose to do so.
    In the end, though, he’s right that a distressingly large number of people do participate in The Big Sort, to the extent that our political vocabulary lacks concepts around which the warring ideological groups can form agreements across lines. But many of us do not.

  4. Brad Warthen

    As for penultimo’s comment:

    O brave new parish
    That hath such people in’t!

    That old fellow Shakespeare fellow was a marvelous emotional engineer, was he not?

    And no, I can’t shoot par. Are you saying there is a church I could attend that would enable me to shoot par? Sounds a bit like the devil’s own temptation, there…

  5. just saying

    I’m guessing that the service you usually attend is very different from the 5:30 Sunday mass… didn’t see a whole lot of variety in skin tones there. Are the non-white tones sorting themselves into the same service?
    And I’m not sure how having “members from 46 counties” actually speaks to practical diversity… it almost strikes me more as a “but one of my best friends is _____” argument. For example, if there were only 1 or 2 families from most of those counties, then it doesn’t really show much of anything about you getting a diverse experience.
    It does make me curious as to why those people sort themselves halfway across the state instead of going to mass closer to home. (Are the people they live near now different enough that they have to sort themselves back to the more familiar?)

  6. just saying

    “I don’t TRY to associate only with like-minded individuals.”
    Isn’t part of the sorting mechanism that it doesn’t take much effort? e.g. There are several masses in town… is picking the one where everything is in a language you understand something that takes much trying? There are a bunch of barber shop/stylists in town, is going to the one where you have lots of things to talk about with the others there something that takes effort?
    You say you don’t put effort into finding like minded people… but the other quesiton is, do you put effort into making sure you associate with people with other viewpoints? (Which I’m certainly not saying is bad thing… )

  7. JRiley

    I didn’t realize you were a Navy brat! I know that’s not the point that you were trying to make with Sunday’s column — it’s actually probably closer to the opposite — but I thought it was cool as a fellow Navy brat who got her first taste of writing in a second grade essay about the plight of the military child. Which is to say, though I agree that it’s distressing to see the media and party structures viewing the world in simplistic groups, a little commonality is always a conversation starter!


    I wish you would make the point that the similarities that people seek are not always the stereotypical ones. I love to travel and meet people all over the world. It is my passion. However, I associate with Southerners. And get this…I mean Southerners of all races. I have always asserted that as a white southern man, I have more in common with a black southern woman than I do with a white northern or western man. I recognize my own southern culture more in the home of a black friend than in the home of a northerner – in the kitchen, the den, the music room – in church. Please give this some thought. You are in a position to make this point often

Comments are closed.