The Struggles of the Church - Part I
Submitted by St_Clinton on Sun, 12/27/2009 - 21:12
I am hoping that there is something that will happen to change things, but I fear that it will not happen. Yeah it is the congregation that I am in. I have tried over and over again to get things going there, but I have given up for the most part. My pastor has begun to try, but I think that he will give up by the summer. I still think that there is hope for the place, but not much hope for it with most of the people within the walls of it currently. Changes need to be made, and with those changes it means a lose of many of the people there.
The congregation basically has 6 real lay leaders, and only one of them serves on the vestry at this time. The thing is with this person, if the diocese were to ask me to bring the leaders of the congregation over for a meeting, he wouldn't be one of them, and I think that maybe two of the others might come. But this congregation is like so many others, where it is just really a few people who actually do the work. I have someone hoped that with Area Ministry that it would get others to step of to the plate, but I don't think that it will happen much.
What is really sad is how little people really want to do anything at this congregation. The vestry will put committees together, and they don't meet, or will start off with a bang and then die very quickly. Trying to get people together to do even the simplest of things is difficult. When I first started going there, on the first Sunday of the month people would bring food for the Food Pantry, but that faded away. I tried to bring that back, and it worked for a couple of months, then it stopped. We do a monthly Movie Night, where a member of the congregation will bring in a movie on the second Saturday of the month and will also bring some snacks. The idea was to invite the neighbors to come in hopes that a few of them might be interested in wanting to know more about the church and become members. Just a couple of us put notices out to the people of the area, and even got it into the local neighborhood paper. Only one neighbor ever came. Part of the problem was that there was more of a push to have movies that had Spanish subtitles, than to get the people of the area through the door. Sure it is nice to have people from the congregation to show up, but it wasn't helping the church grow. One other thing is that when people sign up, they also put what movie they are going to show so that can be advertised not only within the neighborhood, but also places like Craigslist.
But as hard as others and I try to bring life into the place, and get people involved, excuse after excuse is given as to why the different ideas can't be done. Now imagine if the followers during the time of Jesus keep doing that. Do you really think that Christianity would have survived? It's time for people to get off of there butt and actually do something.
This in a way is not just about the congregation that I am in, but the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, the Catholic Church and the many others that are dying. Oh people are talking about there members dying and moving away, but what is being done to get others to fill in those empty seats? It would seem to me that with people moving, that growth for some parishes would be happening, but I don't hear about that, only that congregations are dying. I know of a congregation that at had a large number of people in the pews for the two services that they had on Sundays, but now they are down to one service and only have maybe 25 people for it. This is sad.
But yet I do see hope for many of the congregations if they really want to survive. One of the first things that I think needs to be done is to have people from the office have a conversation with the lay leader of these places to see if they really see any true and honest hope of the congregation's survival. The diocese needs to also have suggestions on things that these congregations could do. They also must talk about the effect of actually closing or merging congregations. Think about it. Maybe two struggling congregations could merge into one under new clergy leadership. and even though they might start off small, with more lay leadership involved, they could become vital places with life in them. Why have say 80 congregations with say ½ of them dying, when you could have 60 congregations with life in them that are spreading greatness of our Lord and Saviour?
But I will admit that I do see congregations in the Episcopal Diocese that I live in where I truly believe that the Holy Trinity will bring life back into. There are three congregations that come to mind. St. Cyprian's in San Francisco. From what I understand, they are down to only 25 people coming each Sunday. I know their vicar, The Rev. Will Scott. This is a congregation that I would love to see leaders from other congregations attend and become a member of. With the leaders at the church, others coming in, and Area Ministry, this could become the congregation that it once was, that being one with Life in it.
Another congregation is the one that I joined when I first moved to California. It was a vibrant congregation then, but after I left it declined to a sad state. From what I understand, St. Cuthbert's is actually beginning to do well. But the thing that I believe will help it in it's growth is if some of its members get involved in other things in the diocese. I believe that they have the ability to become the faster growing congregation in the diocese and in the Episcopal Church as a whole. It's just missing that certain something to get it there. Even though I am not a fan of the vicar, I think that if the members were to actually listen to her and work with her, along with support from the diocese, they will grow.
The last congregation is St. Paul's here in Oakland. Now they are actually doing OK, but I believe that they are about to become another one of those that will grow in huge ways. This is a case where the rector is so dynamic, they will come just for him, but the problem is that the church won't know what to do with the people beyond having them come on Sundays.
Oh I know that there are a ton of more congregations that I could add, like Grace Epiphany in Philadelphia and others, but those were the ones that come to mind as I think about it.
Another congregation that just jumped into my mind what I pray will be busting at the seems one day is St. Clare's, located in Pleasanton. Rev. Ron Culmer is the Rector and a really super guy. I think that with his leadership, and if the people work with him, that church will be one of those where you will need to get there 20 minutes before any service if you want to get a seat.
One more is St. Augustine's here in Oakland. It seems to be that they have the right mixture of stuff, from a great Rector in Rev. Monrelle Williams, to people who are active at many levels not only at different levels within the congregation, but in the diocese as well, but something just isn't working right. Oh they have bugged me to join leave where I am and join them, but for me my heart wouldn't be in that place. Oh I do go there for services, and I do love the people, but I kind of like the underdog church that others forget exist.
Anyways, let me end this here, as I am sure that their are plenty of other things that you could be doing besides reading what I write. I promise that I will continue on with my thoughts int eh near future.