Monday, December 21, 2009

Trends and Bad News...

According to polling data, there has been a steep decline in attendance at Mass among Roman Catholics of all ages. In 1955 75%, 3 of every 4 Roman Catholics of all ages, attended Mass weekly. Now, the steep decline among Roman Catholics and a slight up tick among Protestants has left us with about 45% of each in worship weekly. As recently as 2000, there were 10% MORE Roman Catholics in Mass than Protestants in worship (53% vs 43%).
You can see the decline in all age groups among Roman Catholics. It is dramatic.

So what do we make of this all? I am no guru of the Gallup but it is clear that this is a major problem among Roman Catholics. And judging from the statistics that Lutheran denominations report, we are in no better shape. We could spend out time excusing, explaining, and extrapolating reasons for all of this -- and the reasons for this are legion -- but I have one question. When did the Church settle for occasional attendance? Since when did occasional participation in the sacramental life of the Church become acceptable, tolerable, or "enough?"

Maybe it is high time we started saying (with a straight face) to people -- God's expectation is that all His people will be in His House on His day (the only exception being when too ill to attend, when forced by employment to work, or when attendance is a virtual impossibility (for whatever honest reason). Is that so hard? Hey people, I know you think it is optional, but it ain't. Church attendance is the ordinary expectation of all God's people, all the time. So, quit the whining, excuses, and justifications... and get you but into Church. Period.

It is demeaning when Pastors have to act as if they were parents to adults who should know enough for themselves... it is a waste of time better spent doing other things when Pastors, Boards of Elders, and others in the parish are forced to be the consciences of those irregular in attendance. Yes, I know people may treat you badly, no one really noticed or cared you have been gone for seven weeks, and when you did come back people made a joke out of how long you had been gone... I know... BUT we attend not for people but for the Lord, whose grace is His gift to those who heed His invitation, whose Word is worthy of our presence and our ears, and who has earned the right to expect us to be there where He is. Hey, get to church. You know you should. God does too!

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Fr. Peters,

RIGHT ON! When DID we decide church attendance was optional? Especially those brought up in church (of any stripe). Was it because our parents were lax in attendance? NOT MINE. They took my 'butt' to church even if I was kicking and screaming! Child abuse, I guess.

Maybe if some of us who do attend regularly took that attendance more seriously things would change. Back in my Baptist days, I came to hate the noise before services. It sounded more like a sports arena. The organist (while we still had one) had to play louder and louder in hopes of getting the congregation's attention. Maybe that's why so many have made the transition to quasi rock-n-roll bands up front?

Why can't those of us who attend act like the Divine Service is just that - a DIVINE Service? Did people in the Scripture chatter on when an angel came to speak to them? Did Moses have something better to do than speak to God in the burning bush? I'm as guilty as any of taking things too lightly, but I want to do better. I'd like to be able to do my greeting and chatting in the Narthex, then be quiet once I go through the doors, pass the font, and look to the altar.

Maybe when the occasional attendees see us reverent before our Lord they'll be there more often.