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Posted August 28, 2007

Church Attendance an International Concern

Also see below recent CNS Column by Gene Hemrick on this issue

Taken from the CARA Report
For more information on how to subscribe to the CARA Report e-mail: CARA@georgetown.edu or call 202-687-8080

Church attendance is becoming a concern in many Christian denominations. The Archdiocese of Mexico City recently announced that only 6 to 9 percent of its Catholics regularly attend Sunday Mass. Another recent study from the United Kingdom reported that ďmore than half of Britainís adults claim to be Christian, but only one in 10 regularly attends weekly church services.Ē By contrast, according to recent CARA polls, some 23-35 percent of Catholics in the United States report attending Mass weekly or more often.

. . . Reason given for no longer attending Mass

Taken from an Australian study of interviewing 41 life histories

Church-centered reasons

1. The irrelevance of the Church to life today

2. Misuse of power and authority in the Church

3. Problems with the priest in the parish

4. Lack of intellectual stimulation

5. Concerns related to the parish as a community

6. A sense of being excluded by Church rules

7. Structural factors

Participant-centered reasons

1. Family or household related issues

2. Crisis of faith

3. Mass is simply not a priority

Taken from Gallup Organization 1,006 respondents

What is the most important reason why you do not attend church or synagogue?

Thought-out, rational reasons:

24% Donít agree with organized religion/what they preach

16 Donít believe in going to church

10 Atheist/Donít believe in God

03 Church wants/asks for too much money

Practical or ďdefaultĒ reasons:

21 % Donít have time/donít get around to it

09 Donít have a church I connect with

06 Iím lazy

02 Poor health/disabled

01 Family members are different religions

Making church inspiring

By Father Eugene Hemrick Catholic News Service
This column is part of the CNS columns package

When you enter church, are you gripped with a sense of reverential awe? Does stillness and order speak of being in God's presence?

On the other hand, does entering give the impression of a social gathering of friends? When you enter it are people scurrying around the altar, lectors looking over texts, choirs practicing and ushers and parishioners conversing?

Several years ago, a classmate and I visited a newly constructed church. As we entered, a woman was standing at the lectern hollering instructions to young people about an upcoming social event. My classmate remarked, "The lectern should be kept sacred for the word of God. It's not a public podium!"

At first I thought this a bit conservative. Throughout my priesthood I have experienced church after church being used for social gatherings. In many poor parishes, they don't have any other facility to use.

With the recent concern of Pope Benedict XVI about the surge in secularism and loss of sacredness, I have had a change of mind. I now wonder whether our churches are unconsciously contributing to this.

To be secular is to be primarily concerned with the here and now. Sacred traditions are of no value, nor is meditating the transcendent.

Not only is our society more secular; it is more profane. The word "profane" means to be "outside the temple."

How to get more of our society into the temple and its divine mysteries is one of the biggest challenges of our times. This is especially true of attracting our youth who are brought up in overstimulated environments.

What is there to attract them to our churches? Do we compete with their music and employ upbeat songs? Do we provide a more inviting social atmosphere for them? Do we focus on contemporary homilies that aim at their world of images? Or could it be that we are on the wrong track in this thinking?

How about thinking counterculture? Instead of increasing stimulation in our churches, make them quiet awesome temples.

We must wonder what would happen if more people entered a church in which no one was on the altar, at the lectern, practicing music or conversing within its walls, a church whose entrance promoted silence not in a disciplinary way but as a way of encouraging people to focus their powers of concentration on entering into its divine mysteries.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "Concentration is the secret of our strength." Churchgoers and especially our youth should leave church strengthened. What better way to achieve this than creating an awesome stillness that says, God is here?