Wednesday, February 27, 2008

As Far As They Know, There's No Need for Church

So, everyone's buzzing about the Pew Forum's Religious Landscapes survey. And saying, why are there so many people who identify as UUs who aren't in UU churches?

What's wrong with our UU churches? we ask. Is it our liturgy, our music, our communities?

Well, based on my observances of 2 born-and-raised UU's, who still identify as UU's (my brother and sister), the issue is not about "our." It's not about our liturgy, our music, our sermons, etc.

It's about church, period.

And there's no rejection, no big issue. They just don't see why it's necessary.

So ... Brother is 50. Extremely successful, professionally. Doesn't really read books on spirituality or philosophy.

Sister is 54. Living a blue-collar life, and is a voracious reader about spirituality, especially new-agey things, like Jane Roberts.

Me: 38. Seminary student to become a UU minister.

All raised UU. All identify as UU. BIG DIFFERENCE: I'm the only one with kids.

I'm sure you've all heard the joke about what's a UU? An atheist with children. There's a grain of truth in that. Children have a way of getting us around to doing some of the things we've always meant to do.

Anyway, before we start fussing and fretting about how we do church, we have to address Why Should You Go To Church?

I mean ... a piping hot carafe of coffee, the Sunday paper, Meet-the-News-Nation-Sunday, a flaky danish, cuddly robe ...

I'm sorry, and my point was ?

Ah yes. Why you should leave all that and come to church on Sunday.

Community? Well, I love my community, but they'd all be strangers to Brother and Sister. And as far as they know, they get their need for fellowship met elsewhere.

Sermon? As far as they know, there's no life-changing message ... they find their inspiration in other places.

Music? As far as they know, there's much better music available in their CD collection. Oooh, or maybe going to a jazz brunch.

Sunday morning is prime real estate. Any weekend hours are. So to ask them to sacrifice that time to go to church ... well, as far as they know, there's just not enough time in the weekend. There's not enough value in it. As far as they know.

Now ... I harbor the sneaky suspicion that just like so many of us who walked into church that first day "for the kids" and wound up staying, becoming a small group facilitator, joining the Men's Group, agreeing to be Board president, finding transformation ... I think that if they took that first step, odds are, they'd take a second. And a third. And if they didn't ... well, that's a topic about our.

But first, we have to convince them why church. Because as far as they know ... they don't know much about church.


Terri Dennehy Pahucki said...

Some really good points here. None of my single or childless friends go to church--not UU, not any religion--even the ones who were active in college... though I do know lots of single older (50+) adults in the UU crowd. Another thing that kicks people over the edge from just "thinking about religion" into "joining one" is experiencing a loss or life change, I think. For me, it was both--birth of child and death of father happening in the same year--that got me through that door.

Comrade Kevin said...

And that is a challenge that all of us in a liberal Protestant setting face. You can call it "Mind The Gap" or you can call it "We Sure Don't Seem to Have Many Young People".

The need for church has been transformed from a community-centered approach to a self-centered one and it usually comes as a response to dynamics beyond our control.


I can control myself (I think) but I'm not sure I can control my children and thus I'm going back to church for their benefit.

The focus needs to be taken away from the self and onto the community as a whole and not just community for the sake of being a part of something larger.

You could say, rightly, that underpinning my Quakerism is a belief in Christian anarchism, but that's one of those big broad academic terms that will either be understood by some, utterly disregarded, or misunderstood by most. And throw out anarchy to the average passerby and they immediately associate it with lawlessness and chaos, which is not at all the impact I want to make.