It is no secret that we lost parishioners since the pandemic. We are about 40% lighter than prior. It is a miracle we are still here when over 4500 churches closed during the pandemic. This rapidly accelerating trend is reshaping the religious landscape in the United States and us here at home.
And, it should be no surprise, right? We were basically closed for almost 3 years in one form or another. Church leaders and commentators have warned that Christianity is dying in America. They say the American church is poised to follow the path of churches in Western Europe: soaring Gothic cathedrals with empty pews, shuttered church buildings converted into skate parts and nightclubs, and a secularized society where Dr. Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London Christianity as a norm is “probably gone for good — or at least for the next 100 years.” 70% of young people abroad identify with no religion and 59% of young people never attend religious services.
Here at home, 38% of Americans report that they never attend religious services, compared to one in four who reported this before the pandemic. There was less change among the most religiously engaged older Americans with 26 percent reporting attending religious services at least once a week, similar to the 24 percent now. In other words, older folks are back to almost normal but younger and middle-aged parishioners have not returned as quickly and many find little value in going back. Our own lack of enrollment in Family Faith Formation should tell is how hard it is for people to reengage their faith.
Some reported back to me that they are out of ‘the habit’ or sports and extracurricular activities for kids are in the way, and still some no longer believe. As we try to rebuild, I often wonder if we are worth saving or should we just shutter and sell all that we own.
So, this week, I took inventory of the major things we have done, and I would like to share the simple list. Then, ask yourself, as I have, is it worth saving Saint Miriam and sign up to give weekly or monthly to do so, or should we vote by doing nothing?
- We buried two deceased in our cemetery.
- We baptized two children and 1 adult and married 4 couples!
- We gave away a FREE grave to someone who had a family that disowned them and would not pay for a funeral. We will have a graveside service next week to say a prayer for them.
- We enrolled two children into our school on scholarships who otherwise would not receive a quality private education.
- We helped a family navigate their former church who refused to give their child a sacrament for First Penance and First Holy Communion in their own prejudice.
- We fed over 100 people experiencing homelessness last Saturday with our Outreach Program and will prepare another 125 meals plus hygiene and nutrition support bags and fresh water for this weekend.
- We announced we will open our doors in November for Life Line to help you and the community get ahead of disease.
- We are holding a FREE Trunk or Treat event with balloon bounce and treats this weekend for the school and local community.
- We are participating in World Drawing God Day to help re-engage youth! (You can draw, too!)
- Our campus is filled with people buying pumpkins in the Annual Pumpkin Patch!
- We are bringing back the tote bag and candles fundraisers and a Silent Auction and Christmas Concert too!
- Brian McLaren is coming to talk to us about this very issue! He will join us live via Zoom on the big screen on November 5th!
I am not sure If I need to add much more, although there was a lot to do and get through this past week. I do know that without us many would have nowhere to worship, nowhere to enjoy events and community, nowhere to send their children to school, nowhere to feel safe in their individuality, nowhere to serve the homeless, and nowhere to bury their dead.
So, this week I will pray that more of you agree and sign up for electronic giving, enroll your children into Faith Formation, and participate in events and give to the auction coming up. It all helps save us.
I think all of that, and Saint Miriam, is worth saving.