Most people in Las Vegas are new here and don’t know how long they are going to say. But there is a special breed of veteran Vegasites. They have been here for decades and measure their seniority by how close to downtown they can name a street that was still unpaved when they moved here. 30, 40, or 50 years ago is current events back East, but in Nevada, that’s history – especially in a place that has changed so much so fast as Las Vegas. Watching half a century of history unfold anywhere has to lend some perspective. But watching the cultural seismic shift that has rocked Las Vegas – population c. 200 around the year 1905 – means nothing surprises this bunch. Yes, the veteran Vegasites are their own special breed of urban sage.
So why am I going on about this rare breed of Western savant? Because the Saturday evening Eucharist at All Saints is heavily populated with Veteran Vegasites. (I don’t know if they would like this title. “Vegas” to a “local” does not mean the City of Las Vegas. It means “the Strip” about which the “locals” are ambivalent. When a local means Las Vegas, we say “Las Vegas.”) In any event, it was my privilege last Saturday to worship with the VV’s of All Saints – a wise and clever crowd with a good sense of humor.
Then next morning, the 8:00 a.m. Eucharist was not the norm. It had about 50 people belting out hymns accompanied by Fr. Bede on the organ. Afterward, Linda and I joined the rowdy back row crowd for their weekly breakfast at the Sunshine Café down the street. The early Sunday service was a bit more ethnically mixed than the Saturday group.
Then came the energetic larger service (c. 140 people – note: put the past 3 services together and we have well surpassed the 1905 population of the whole city) where we baptized one adult and two little girls. This group was more ethnically mixed than the congregation at 8:00.
You might expect things to slow down in the summer afternoon. But quite the opposite. The congregation of Todos Los Santos brought in another 190 people. We confirmed 20 youth and celebrated first communion for numerous children dressed in white, carrying candles, rosaries, and other holy objects. They politely endured my massacre of their language at the Mass. The music was lively to say the least. The congregation worshiped with the most joyful exuberance I have seen in quite some time.
But wait there’s more. In the late afternoon, the Holy Child Filipino congregation – 30 of them -- gathered for a charismatic style service with a praise band you wouldn’t believe – piano, drums, two guitars, tambourines, and brilliant vocalists. Lay leadership was front and center for this service. And afterward, we enjoyed a delicious repast of Filipino cuisine.
Now you may assume things were over, and for me they were. I am not as young as I used to be. At this point, I was just plumb worshiped out and went home. But no it wasn’t over at All Saints. The next Spanish Language Mass was about to begin at 6:00 p.m. while I loaded up my vestments and other ecclesiastical paraphernalia and “homeward trod my weary way.” But it was one amazing day!
The church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The catholicity (universality) depends on diversity. That’s what All Saints does in this diocese. Thanks be to God. The apostolicity depends on our faithfulness to the apostolic mission of sharing Christ’s love with the world. That is what All Saints is doing by reaching out to newcomers in Las Vegas while keeping faith with those who have sustained this church so long.