It’s that time of year when someone decides it’s a good idea to have an outdoor Mass. Depending on your location, this can be anytime from May to September. Maybe it’s the parish patron’s feast day, or the date of the parish picnic. It’s a pleasant thought that those who usually attend different Masses will have the opportunity to worship together.
And no one ever really believes it will rain. Or be 90-plus degrees.
Not all the time, maybe not for even 20 years—but when the morning weather report is grim, it’s time to make some practical decisions.
The presider and the liturgical ministers are usually sheltered by a tent or something; they can afford to “wait and see.” But the ministers, especially the music ministry, have real concerns that have to be addressed long before the event.
- Will instruments need to be plugged into a sound system? Are the players of those instruments willing to have them fried? What about microphones and monitors for cantors and choir? Electricity and wet grass are not a good combination. But an assembly that cannot hear its leadership can only pray that it’ll be over soon. That’s not worship.
- Is there sheltered, accessible accommodation for the music ministry? What about for the assembly? And ministers of communion? Trust me: if the music on the stands and in the folders is getting soggy from mist blowing sideways, the communion wafers are going to be difficult to distribute, even under an umbrella.
- What’s the fallback position in case of extreme heat? Elderly parishioners in danger of heat stroke may need ready access to air conditioning. Acoustic instruments do not respond well to extreme temperatures; and sweat makes your guitar strings go dead.
- What’s the go/no-go time frame? Consider how long it takes to set everything up outside. The decision to move indoors must be made at least two hours before the Mass; it can’t wait till the last minute.
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Otherwise, instead of a happy assembly worshiping together, you’ll wind up with resentful, disgruntled parishioners thinking, “We have a perfectly good worship space inside!”