A faith-based group in Detroit has launched "Mass mobs" to encourage believers to flock to struggling Catholic churches in an effort to help fill pews.
Borrowing from the "flash mob" phenomenon that has spread on social media over the past few years, the Detroit Mass Mob is one of a number of groups in cities across the nation working to help inspire the faithful with monthly events held at local churches.
"Our 'Mass Mobs' will show up at a specific historic Church for a regular scheduled Mass. This will take place every month," reads a description on the Detroit Mass Mob's website. "Our intention is to show solidarity of our Catholic faith through respect for our old historic churches in the Archdiocese — and maybe across Michigan."
Organizers of the Detroit Mass Mob say that participation is quick and simple, requiring participants to merely show up for Mass at historic local churches. A schedule of locations is posted on the group's website, offering up plenty of opportunity to participate.
Thom Mann helped start the group after reading about a similar effort in Buffalo, New York, telling NPR that he first launched the initiative back in April. While the first Mass mob attracted 150 people, the crowd grew at subsequent events, with 2,000 participants showing up to the most recent endeavor.
"People are upset that the churches are closing, but the simple reason is, people don't go," he said. "When you have a church that seats 1,500 people, and there's 100 people there or less, how are they going to keep them open?"
So, he and his group are now helping fight that problem with events that excite and invigorate believers and churches, alike.
The Rev. Mirek Frankowski of St. Florian Catholic church — the latest location where the Mass mob unfolded — told NPR that the Mass mob almost brought him to tears.
"Because, I mean, such a big crowd, it's impossible to see these days in any of the churches," he said. "But thanks to the mob Mass we have this feeling of what it was so many years ago, when the churches were filled with people."
Read more about Detroit's Mass mobs here.