In today’s world of social media, we often have to learn new vocabulary for various phenomena that occur by way of the digital world. One such phrase is “flash mob,” which refers to a large public gathering organized via social media, at which people “instantly” arrive to perform some unusual or random act and then quickly disperse. Here’s an example of a flash mob performing part of Handel’s Messiah at a mall in Amsterdam.
Before long, this concept was borrowed and adapted by a variety of organizations. One such adaptation was “cash mobs” (originated in Buffalo in 2011), which brought people together to make purchases at a local establishment as a way of showing support. Not long thereafter, Buffalo Mass Mobs began taking place as a way of drawing people to some of Buffalo’s historic Catholic churches that were in need of financial support. In 2014, Mass Mobs began taking place in Detroit as a way of supporting many of Detroit’s historic churches.
Recently, I heard from a priest and Catechist’s Journey reader who told me about how his parish is using Mass Mobs as a tool for evangelization. Fr. Dan Swift, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish in Medford, NJ, has begun using Mass Mobs to evangelize, thinking that, if this strategy is working to attract people to experience historic churches in the inner city, why not use it to invite people to experience a large, thriving, suburban parish community?
His first venture into a Mass Mob was on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. It resulted in a packed house for a Mass that usually draws a half-filled church. Since then, Fr. Dan has used the idea of Mass Mobs to invite “the other 75%” of people who normally do not attend Mass—asking his parishioners to use Facebook and Twitter to post about Masses that feature something unique, such as a children’s Mass or a Mass featuring contemporary music. Fr. Dan says that, “While these Mass Mobs were not as successful as the one on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, they were successful enough that we will calendar three Mass Mobs every six months.”
Here is an article from the diocesan newspaper in the Diocese of Trenton, NJ, describing the Mass Mob phenomenon at St. Mary of the Lakes Parish. Thanks for sharing, Fr. Dan!
Can you see other ways of using this strategy, perhaps for special events related to faith formation?