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An Honest Inquiry

In this post, a local pastor inquires about an important issue that he has been wondering about...and invites YOU to share in the dialogue!

I am writing this entry about something that I have been wondering about for quite a while. In writing this, I want you to understand that I am not doing so to cast any judgment on anyone. I am just really intrigued by this issue I am going to describe and I’d really like to have a dialogue about it.

Allow me to cut to the chase: All current data indicates that the majority of people, including the majority of those who were raised in an organized religion, very rarely attend worship services. For most people, in fact, being present in a house of worship is limited to weddings, funerals and special events involving family or friends.

Now all you have to do is read my title above and you know something about me - I go to church every week! No surprise there. Yet, in addition to the fact that being a clergyman is my profession, I also happen to really value both participating in worship and being part of what is usually described as a religious congregation. Now, I can give you several reasons for that, but the reason I am writing,  as I said, is that as a clergyman trying to serve a congregation and be part of a larger local community, I really want to know peoples’ perceptions of organized religion and participation in the activities it provides.

As a Christian pastor, I wonder what it is that keeps people away from worshiping in and being part of a local church.  My sense is that for many people, the church has just not met your needs. I also would like to hear from you for whom the church is a life giving and energizing people and place.

For a good number, I would suppose, what we offer does not seem relevant or meaningful to your life. In future writing, I will be glad to share with you what it does for me, but, right now, quite honestly, I would be most pleased if you would offer some feedback to me. Please leave a comment if you are so inclined.

While in future entries, I will explain my personal perspectives on these matters, I have to say one thing before I end this column today! I have heard people tell me that you don’t need to belong to a church or synagogue to either worship God or be a good person. What I want you to know is that my belief in the value of
worshiping and being part of a community of faith completely accepts the fact
that faith in God and good ethical living is found both in those who go
regularly to places of worship as well as in those who never or rarely set foot within.

Yet, as someone who believes that worship and connection with a group of people who are connected to worship is important, I don’t want to live in a churchy bubble. I want to know what people in the everyday real world are really thinking...so I’d love it if you’d give it some thought...and maybe give it a response!

Thanks!

Pastor Bob

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jack March 01, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Many denominations have become active politically which in no time flat shrinks their numbers as politics is divisive, thus the current topical issues of the day become the topic of conversation as opposed to the next youth mission trip.
Observor March 01, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Is your church associated with the UCC?
Daniel K. Kehoe March 01, 2013 at 03:46 AM
Is WLCC affilliated with UCC? No, it is associated with EFCA the Evangelical Free Church of America, an association that exists to help plant autonomous Bible-believing churches and direct quality leadership to them. (It is so odd that I have to put the adjective phrase Bible-believing in front of the word church. But then again I am a man of the 50s.)
Observor March 01, 2013 at 04:11 AM
Cite your sources, Eric. In the last ten years the number of priests credibly accused of sexual misconduct has averaged in the single digits each year, out of a group of over 40,000. And if you look at all credible allegations as far back as they go, less than 5% of the victims were pre-pubescent. It wasn't about children; most of the problem was gay priests engaging in inappropriate behavior with teenagers. Public schools are crawling with pedophiles because they go where the children are. But the mainstream media doesn't like to talk about sexual abuse by teachers, unless it's a female teacher and a male student. In those cases the teachers become national celebrities.
Observor March 01, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Thanks for the info. From what I read on line it looks like your church was founded in 1844 and was thus probably a Congregationalist church in the New England tradition that either never the joined the UCC when it was formed in the 1950s or later disassociated from it. Either way, your church's success is consistent with my prior observation that the non-UCC Congregationalist churches are thriving while UCC parishes are withering. I liked your observation about having to say "Bible-believing." Don't think there are too many of those left in the UCC.
Darrell Lucas March 01, 2013 at 07:55 AM
Observor, when someone who goes to church and they put money in the collection plate, that is the charity that dominates the numbers in those figures. Here is a link to a study for since you love empirical evidence. http://philanthropy.com/article/FaithGiving/133611/ The religious donate to religious charities. Yes church is a charity. Speaking of empirical evidence, could you provide evidence that god exists?
Rev.Dr.Bob LaRochelle March 01, 2013 at 10:58 AM
I would like to suggest that sweeping generalizations about the UCC are not fair. A closer look at local congregations would indicate this. The phrase ' Bible believing' has to be looked at more closely as well. It often serves as a code phrase for a more fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture, in the same way some leave some more fundamentalist believers leave many Christian colleges( including Catholic ones) off their list of 'Christian colleges'. As a UCC pastor, I want to emphasize that local congregants are not sitting around waiting for the latest pronouncements from the national office in Cleveland. Local congregations include people with a range of views on political/social applications of the Gospel. Data indicates this is typical in many churches, including other Protestant denominations, as well as Roman Catholics. Likewise, the Bible is at the very heart of the UCC tradition! Important side note- What is often not realized is the growth of new church starts within the UCC. We don't see it as much in New England.We are seeing it in places where people are looking for a different approach from the dominant religious culture of the region- Also lost in this is the great increase in those attending Unitarian congregations over the last several years..... Thanks for contributing to this dialogue....... PB
Rev.Dr.Bob LaRochelle March 01, 2013 at 10:59 AM
The above should read 'some more fundamentalist believers leave'---Typing too fast too early in am! PB
Observor March 01, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Darrell, the link you provided is meaningless. It says: "But the generosity ranking changes when religion is taken out of the picture." What it doesn't say is how they define "religion." You attribute it all to the collection plate but there is no basis in the blurb for that conclusion. "Religion" could include donations to religiously-affiliated colleges and hospitals or social agencies such as Lutheran Family Services or Catholic Relief Services or Baptist Social Services. A church in my town holds events where people give to the church but all proceeds go to the local food and fuel banks, and all churches support charitable causes out of their collection plates. Can you say the number doesn't include donations to the Knights of Columbus when they sell tootsie rolls to help the developmentally disabled? Check the web site of any Catholic diocese and see the ministries they have that do not involve promoting the church. When you come up with real empirical data I will explain to you that I can provide just as much evidence that God exists as you can provide that He doesn't.
Daniella Ruiz March 01, 2013 at 02:34 PM
rev >> yes i concur, garnering broad meanings from select events of any organization will lead to conflict and subsequent misunderstandings. as i reflected earlier, doubts can cast aspersions without valid basis, as people are naturally cautious yet most are fully ready to engage in new and truthful discourse. it may be the few organizations that seek vast expansions, with ulterior motives that present obstacles to bringing together more fully engaged 'new faces' with smaller, more locally centric church bodies. as well, media outlets oft use the most heinous of events as spectacular demonstration, even though that is clearly non-representative of churches as a whole. that alone reaches deep into people's aversion of church, despite knowing all the truths. my best wishes for you and your congregation, and the future of all life. (PB?)
William Boylan March 01, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Darryl, Since you ask for empirical evidence of God's existence, look in the mirror; your very existence is that proof.
William Boylan March 01, 2013 at 11:28 PM
Pastor, I would like to know what you think of my opinion, "Mandatory mental health evaluations for students is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy in which the state assumes the role of both parent and god." http://meriden.patch.com/blog_posts/sen-bartolomeo-state-cant-mandate-psych-evals-for-students Thanks,
Nora Wagar March 02, 2013 at 08:10 PM
I have not been to a service in many years. I am at the stage where I do not know where I belong. I was raised Lutheran. I moved out of state for a decade and came back. I have 2 children which I have not had baptized and I feel horribly guilty because of that but like I said, I don't know where to go. Not sure what to believe in anymore.
Brigid March 02, 2013 at 08:51 PM
I was raised Catholic but chose to become an Episcopalian as an adult. In the old days people just went to the church they were brought up in and thought nothing of it. It was what you did without thinking. I repeat - without thinking. People today are more educated and thoughtful in these matters - thus the fairly new phenomenon known as ‘church shopping’. The Catholic Church pedophile scandal has certainly not helped people’s overall perception of religion, nor has the spread of fundamentalist Christianity which takes the Bible quite literally. Another problem is religious politicians who push for prayer in public school, insist that we are a Christian nation, and generally try to shove their particular brand of Christianity down the public’s throats. People feel they can have their own relationship with God and do not feel compelled to follow a particular denomination.
Rev.Dr.Bob LaRochelle March 02, 2013 at 09:27 PM
i deeply appreciate your honest response..Thanks Pastor Bob
Rev.Dr.Bob LaRochelle March 02, 2013 at 09:29 PM
I think it is important that people make personal decisions about religious affiliations. That was my own experience as well. I think you describe the current state of 'church choice' well...Pastor Bob
Rev.Dr.Bob LaRochelle March 02, 2013 at 09:32 PM
A personal note----It has been a busy week on this blog. THANKS for your contributions. There is a lot shared here...My next blog column will be entitled ANSWERING MY OWN QUESTIONS. I will try to write it within a few days.... I will be leading services tomorrow at my church. I look forward to this every week....I wish everyone a great weekend- PB
MAC March 02, 2013 at 10:21 PM
This from A. Lincoln has applicability to many in the world today, and at least partially answers the question of why church attendance is so low, here and especially in Europe: "It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in Holy Scripture, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. And, insomuch (sic) as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own."... Cont'd next post...
MAC March 02, 2013 at 10:35 PM
Here is the remainder of Lincoln's proclamation, as president, for a national day of fasting and prayer--and I suggest all Americans implement that in their own lives--annually (if not monthly) and ask ourselves if we are guilty of this: ..."Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." [March 30, 1863] [AMEN, AMEN and AMEN!!!] http://www.greatamericanhistory.net/lincolnsfaith.htm
William Boylan March 03, 2013 at 12:06 AM
PDY, Like it or not, this nation was founded by by men who were largely Christian, based on Judeo-Christian principals. Jefferson made it clear in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, the so-known "wall of separation" letter, that no particular form of Christianity (or any other religion) would be forced upon any one. No other form of religion or government affords the unalienable liberties we have enjoyed in the United States for two and a half centuries. So much for being more educated.
Brigid March 03, 2013 at 12:26 AM
So much for respectful debate, Mr. Boylan. Based on your snippy little reply to my post, it is obvious that you cherry picked words from mine and made of it what you chose to because you were looking for an argument. I am very much aware that the founding fathers were of Christian heritage. In fact, most of them were Anglicans. My point was that today's politicians insist that we are a Christian nation. We are not a Christian nation. We are a free nation; free to worship or not as we choose. And no child should be forced to pray in school to a God they do not believe in. The fact that you go trolling through internet posts in order to insult and present yourself as holier than thou is a prime example of why people have turned from organized religion.
William Boylan March 03, 2013 at 01:02 AM
And you call ME snippy? Man, have you gotta thin skin. Toughen up; if you can't take the heat stay out of the kitchen.
Peter T. Cianelli March 03, 2013 at 04:08 AM
Pastor Bob...America has new gods; success, fame and the idea that every person is the center of their universe. Not entirely true (feeling a bit curmudgeonly and tired), but it seems that the idea of religion, real personal spirituality, is looked upon as quaint and dated..... I pray every day in my own way, but I believe that there's the Great Architect of the Universe who's listening... For so many people in America, it's not about the universe; it is instead about the "me-niverse"...... It is all about them and only them; that to me is why the nation is in the mess we're in. We won't talk to the person right next to us, choosing instead to communicate with people who aren't there by texting or tweeting (by the way, the root word of Twitter is "twit." You can make the connection, I hope.) There is nothing bigger than the individual and that's not a good way to run a human race. America does need to believe in something other than itself; something better, something that lifts us up and actually makes us think about others first....
Richard Johnson March 03, 2013 at 04:17 AM
I think if people were really honest about it, the real reason why attendance has dropped off is laziness.
Brigid March 03, 2013 at 05:00 AM
Mr. Boylan, A person with a thin skin would have avoided replying to you. I am all for polite discussion and disagreement in these conversation threads, but once I'm attacked I don't roll over and play dead. I DID feel your heat; and I turned the oven up.
Brigid March 04, 2013 at 03:22 AM
Yet another example of why many people avoid going to church - you judge without knowing the facts.
William Boylan March 04, 2013 at 04:45 AM
Richard, you make an honest point, based on your observation, and yet you are accused of "judging" without the facts.
Daniella Ruiz March 04, 2013 at 10:55 AM
many conversations between people have become an "I" challenge. listening to people as they exchange, is like a race to 'fill the dead space' between them with as many uses of the word I as possible.>> I did this, I did that, I went here, I was there, etc. its almost as if they have to impress people, endlessly with the small sphere of 'ME,ME,ME ME" (as you mentioned) and how 'seemingly vital it is for everyone around them to be aware of that sphere that they have wrapped around themselves, where it goes, what it does, who does what to them, etc etc. it is a level of self absorption so venal as to be offensive, as if no one else's life even had substance or reason to 'be', other than their own. as well, parents push their little darlings either into every 'requisite' social activity (lest they be thought malcontents), or push them aside. (as if the child were some kind of obstacle). very little in the way of genuine family or communal values, more of an expression of desperation, even a sense they are struggling to exist in plain view. others may not even notice them, or even rigidly avoid their existence, and worse, often with niggardly disgust or an air of snooty contempt. friendly, they are not, self centered, they very much are. and that is a far cry from what any congregation of good people in common is. it is a divided, separate, chafing, obsessiveness that has no cohesion, let alone any semblance of 'country'.
Daniella Ruiz March 04, 2013 at 07:58 PM
yep, its much easier to wake up, hit the couch in your 'jammies' , turn on those newsy truth-vangelists, and be 'filled with the joys of humanity', all day long, without even bothering to rub elbows with others as well! (they even have people mentioning the latest 'stuff for sale too!) now as for the sabbath, that's another day of real religion, that's when the likes of what we called preachers years ago, really pound the truth into you, and back it up with a reference manual called, the bible, or some book of their persuasion. no, people aren't lazy, really now, we're just modernified, all living in the church of monetized existence, and by golly, "Thats the American Way", "God save the buck" or at least "pass the buck"' .... (In God We Trust?)
William Boylan March 04, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Well said, Daniella!

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