Showing posts from April, 2020

Resilience for such a time as this

The term resilient can evoke an image of a strong, silent person, most often a man such as several of the characters that John Wayne and Clint Eastwood have portrayed. Such a person who stubbornly persists no matter what occurs, never sharing his (or her) feelings. That stereotype unhelpfully confuses emotional openness with the ability to persevere or bounce back from hardship. Illustratively, emotional openness connotes awareness of one’s feeling and a willingness to share those feelings with another; resilience is the rider who, trying to break a horse, when thrown gets up, shakes off the dust, and gets back in the saddle. Resilience receives too little attention in discussions of Christian character. Yet, resilience is vital for healthy living. Resilience helps a person to bounce back after adversity. Christianity is not a prophylactic against bad things happening to a person nor can Christianity set the world, or even the Christian, right after bad things happen. Christian

Finding God in a pandemic

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." John 20:24-29 John 20:24-29 is part of the Gospel reading in Episcopal Eucharistic services on the Second Sunday of Easter. The COVID-19 p

Some thoughts on how to grow a congregation numerically

Conventional thinking about church growth and evangelism is analogous to the challenges of selling printed encyclopedias in our internet dependent era. Until the last third of the twentieth century, Christian congregations generally grew when current members had children, people who relocated to the area sought a congregation or after developing a distinct identity, e.g., a congregation with the best traditional worship music in the area. No more. Even the once significant number of persons raised in the faith who left Christianity as teens or college students and subsequently returned to it in their late twenties or early thirties with spouse and young children is rapidly vanishing. People used to belong to a Christian congregation and to attend worship for one or more of these reasons: Christianity was the religion in which the person had been raised and the individual never deeply questioned whether to belong Cultural norms, forces or perceived social benefits ke

How many churches will COVID-19 “kill”?

How many churches will COVID-19 “kill”? Two definitions are essential to understand that question correctly. First, “church” denotes a local congregation. That is, “church” designates a local organization and not a theological concept. By extension, “small” connotes a church with a low Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) and not the size of the church’s physical plant. Second, “kill” connotes the institutional demise of an individual church and not the death, spiritual or physical, of that congregation’s members. The Episcopal Church is experiencing a well-documented, long-term numerical decline. The number of Episcopal churches dropped from 6964 in 2008 to 6423 in 2018 ( Episcopal Domestic Fast Facts Trends: 2008-2012 and Episcopal Domestic Fast Facts: 2018 ). The 2008 financial crisis, precipitated by the housing bubble bursting, placed many churches in dire financial straits, assuredly accelerating, if not causing, some of that 9% decline in the number of churches. Forecasts