Last Sunday we went to a mass of convenience, 7 AM at the parish church closest to the hotel where we were staying. That happened to be Holy Spirit Parish in Fairfield CA, a large suburban parish with a school. We got there a few minutes early, found a decent parking spot, and walked to what we thought was the back of the church (and probably was, when the building was originally constructed. Walked in the door, and looking straight across there was a glassed in area (probably the original sanctuary) with a baptismal font and next to that, the golden tabernacle. The altar had been moved to what was once the left hand wall, and the pews rearranged in the round more or less - so that they all faced the altar but some were angled. The choir and the organ were on what had once been the right hand wall, directly facing the altar and the crucifix that hung behind the altar. Directly beneath the crucifix were a set of chairs, much as one would see in a cathedral.
I found it most disconcerting, but couldn't really identify why. The tabernacle was not off in a broom closet, it was in a position of honor and there was much genuflection by those who walked past it to enter the nave of the church. The pew arrangement meant that there was really no more than 10 rows between the altar and the wall, so that it was no longer easy to hide in the back and sneak out. It was obvious that a lot of thought and care had gone into the renovation, and given that most California churches have good reasons to avoid using the choir lofts (most of them are not structurally sound after the earthquakes of the 1980s and 1990s) it made sense to have the choir and organ where it was.
I invite those with more architectural knowledge to weigh in on what is apparantly the latest fad in church renovation - turning the orientation 90 degrees. MY quick observation was that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have a procession of any kind. The stations of the cross were all on the wall that faced the altar, but with the organ etc midway between them, it would also be difficult if not impossible to walk the stations. I also think that this arrangement might eliminate the niches for statuary - maybe that is intentional, maybe accidental. I just don't know.
The congregation was obviously devout and very multi-ethnic. I saw Filipino, Mexican, Korean, Vietnamese, African, and also many Anglo and mixed ethnicity individuals and families. The music was standard OCP but all the mass parts including the Gloria were sung. Did I mention that the church was completely full? If that was the turnout for the 7 AM mass I would bet it got to SRO for the later masses.