Friday, August 05, 2005

When this was noised abroad . . .

Word is starting to travel through the neighborhood about the church closing. I've been amazed at the folks who have approached me with real dismay at this news. These are people on whose doorknobs we've hung invitations to church stuff , people who come to our annual rummage sale, people we wave to from the church porch on Sunday mornings as we prepare for worship and they head off to Starbucks or the little French Bistro down the street that does fabulous brunch. These are people who send us info about their association, club, etc. to put on the church bulletin board, who call us when they have a used computer or copier they need to unload---but people who almost never enter the building.

I can only conclude that, while these people--who are a fair representation of your average SW Portlanders--don't want to DO church, they want church to be there. They want church to be part of the landscape, they want it to continue to be an option even if it's an option they almost never choose. They don't want to go to church, but they want church to be there to not go to.

What are we church leaders supposed to do with that, anyway??

12 comments:

reverendmother said...

That's a really really good question. And an interesting one to bring with you to a new call (thinking about the PIF again)--what are we here for? What is our ministry to people who will never actually darken our door?

the reverend mommy said...

Isn't is interesting that people don't wonder until the doors start to swing shut?

Prayers to you tonight.

Gord said...

A couple years ago we were doing one of those "contact-every-member" blitzes. There were a couple of people who were in fact honest enough to say that they only needed the church to be there when they die. In addition to the question reverendmother asks, I wonder "how do they expect that we will still be here if they don't help support (in money and time and participation) our continued existence/presence?"

Sue said...

What an excellent question. It's almost as if some people need the church building to remind them of what they're still rebelling against ("My parents made me go there when I was a kid....").

Interesting dynamic, but sad for your congregation. Such a challenging time indeed.

Gord said...

Reading this sparked some of my own thinking and revisiting a colukn I wrote about 9 months ago. I blogged it if you are interested.

Kathryn said...

This is a recurring theme here, as being the "established church" means that the C of E effectively /belongs/ to all those people who wouldn't dream of setting foot in it, except for baptisms, weddings and, yup, funerals, still less help to pay for its upkeep.....but when there is any hint of closure it is suddenly
"OUR church that those nasty clergy are trying to take away from us".

LutheranChik said...

We have this same phenomenon in the neighborhood around our church. When we have our annual yard sale -- this is our annual moneymaker, and it's a Big Deal locally -- folks from the 'hood give us donations over and above the cost of the merchandise, or just give us money...this year someone wants to donate two horses to our sale (!...anyone want to buy a horse?)...a couple of years ago someone donated a van to our church...a lot of people in our area seem to have goodwill toward our parish, but we never see them in church. I'd love to get a focus group of these folks in a room, and in an atmosphere where they are entirely comfortable about self-disclosing, and ask them what it is that keeps them from coming to church.

St. Casserole said...

Interesting question. I've wondered about this. I like Lutheranchiks thought about gathering all those who do for the church but won't attend in a room to ask why and how and what for.
Church must have more power just as a building than we think.

Purechristianithink said...

Gord--thanks for the link to your comment.

I'm wondering if there isn't something really primal at work in part of this: if the temple is there, the God is present. If the temple is in ruins, what will become of us??

Kathryn said...

Y...absolutely agree with purechristianithink...as part of the ordination course I did a survey of our 3 parish benefice, which included their attitude to building, clergy and lay ministry (which still feels a bit radical for country parishes round here)Overwhelmingly, people saw the church as the sign of God in their midst..and were prepared to do without clergy altogether if they could continue to have THEIR village church there for them...so they have somewhere not to go on Sundays, I presume!

Lisa said...

I think it's also the loss of hope for what they might have done..like actually walk into the church one day. It's sort of like when someone dies and you'd been meaning to go see them (for years). Suddenly the chance is gone and you want it back.

Stacey said...

This is a phenomenon I've been puzzling over since I arrived in this community...My church is the only church in town, and it's an important part of how they see the town as a whole - but most of them cross the threshhold only for our annual chicken BBQ. Most of the people in town are or have been members of the church at one point. I think in many cases, church has just slipped away from them....evidenced in the fact that many of them say things like, "I know I haven't been in church for a couple of months," when records show that it's been more like years. Puzzling.