That was a headline in the Toronto Star on February 28, 2009 in particular reference to the churches in Canada’s province of Quebec. The story by Andrwew Chung goes on to talk about extremely low attendance, dismal offerings that won’t even pay the heat, and the resulting need to put beautiful church structures up for sale in a market where no one is buying. With no takers in sight, some churches end up being barricaded.
Quebec, that bastion of French culture in Canada, may be somewhat an extreme example of what is happening across North America and perhaps even in Europe where Christianity has been around for centuries. In Quebec, Chung reports that fewer than 10% of the population actually attends mass.
Let’s focus on two comments made in relation to all of this. First, Gerald Baril, spokesperson for the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada is quoted as saying, “People don’t care much about spirituality and don’t care much about the church.” Second, Louis-Philippe Desrosiers, who’s in charge of selling churches for Montreal’s parishes is quoted as saying, “Well, remember that the majority of people in the parishes nowadays are in their sixties to eighties…. People are not interested in the life of their souls anymore.”
Let me react. Both of these gentlemen seem to be placing the blame for the demise of the church on its congregants. The first says people don’t care about spirituality or the church and the second says they’re not interested in what happens to their souls. I believe they’re wrong on several counts. They’re wrong because they’re assigning responsibility to the former attendees rather than to church leaders. People have not changed since Christ ministered among us in person. He drew them by the thousands and his disciples did so after him. I suggest that we start looking at how church leaders and the organized church has brought about its own demise. We don’t have to look far. Start with the residential school issues, then go to the child abuse issues, then go to the misuse of funds, inappropriate relationships among clergy, and so forth. Look at the abandoning of widows and orphans, and the hypocrisy within some of the structured church bodies today. In the evangelical world, more and more churches are abandoning the larger denominations and becoming independent. The reason for that may lie in some of the things we listed above, coupled with the organized church’s unwillingness to change quickly enough with the times. [And I am certainly not advocating changing the Message of the Gospel, only the means by which it is delivered meaningfully in today’s culture. God is God is of all times and generations.]
Second, I think these men are wrong in saying that people no longer care about spirituality or what happens to their souls. Just witness the ever-increasing bookshelf space available in bookstores for ‘spirituality’. Or, study the ever-increasing number of people trying desperately to ensure their immortality.
Third, I believe that while Desrosiers may be correct in saying only older people sit in the pews these days, his church leaders are wrong in not calling for a massive change in the way things are done. Changes are needed that will attract and encourage youth to become church participants. [For one example of this see Youth.]
The Church as a whole entity cannot and will not die. It is Christ’s Body and He will accomplish what He set out to do. We can either be part of that or we can watch the particular local arm of that Body we belong to suffer as we’re watching so many do in both the Protestant and Catholic faiths. We can get involved in bringing about positive change or we can sit on the sidelines and say, “what a shame!” while people and especially youth run to all the wrong sources to get their spiritual needs met.
At least that’s the way I see it. You may choose to differ.
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