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Washington Voices

Congregation Breaks Up Into Smaller Groups

Large congregations are often a mixed blessing.

Big numbers generally mean the church is healthy. But some members, especially new ones, can feel as if they don’t really belong.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, S304 Adams Road, is trying to remedy that. Congregation members can join one of 11 small groups that help take the anonymity out of belonging to a large parish.

“People find out that they’re really connected, and they know that they’re really missed if they don’t come,” says Diana Sanderson, the church’s director of religious education. “Sometimes, in a church with 1,500 families, people can get lost.”

At today’s 5:30 p.m. Mass and Sunday’s 7:30, 8:45 and 11 a.m. Masses, small group members will get a chance to speak to the congregation about their experiences.

Sanderson says the groups do more than get to know each other at their weekly meetings. They plan charity events, community outreaches and parish activities.

“One group held a welcoming of everyone who was new to the parish in 1994,” she says. “They also helped a lot during the holidays with families who needed food and gifts.”

The idea was originally started by the Rev. Art Baranowski, a priest based in New Jersey. In March, Baranowski will visit St. Mary’s and other churches in the Spokane diocese to discuss small group activities.

“It’s good to see it growing and taking off,” Sanderson says. “We’ve had 200 people involved.”

Spaghetti feed and auction

Those hankering for spaghetti have a chance Sunday not only to get their pasta fix, but to get someone to take care of the housework as well.

The youth group at Hope Lutheran Church, E17909 Broadway, will sponsor a spaghetti feed Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Later, youth group members will auction themselves off to anyone who needs some chores taken care of.

“You can buy them for an entire day to do projects or whatever,” says the Rev. Craig Wulf, the church’s pastor.

There’s no charge for the food, but the youth group will accept donations. Wulf says the proceeds from the auction go toward sending teens to a national Lutheran youth gathering later this year.

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