Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Oh, those empty pews ...!

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 08, 2005

The Times (U.K.) religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill reports on new findings that rain falls earthward:

CHURCHGOING is in freefall in Britain because clergy and ministers are failing to stand up for moral values and treasured beliefs, a new survey has found. Churches are being "silent" and "lukewarm" in the face of moral and social collapse, according to the £20,000, year-long study of 14,000 British churchgoers and those who have left the Church.

Researchers found "a widespread sense of anger and frustration" at what was happening to churches in the UK and Ireland. The 42-page report is an indictment of modern preaching and worship, illustrating how excessive liberalism and lack of conviction are driving worshippers from the pews. The report portrays a desire for sermons based on the Bible and traditional teaching, rather than on politics, social affairs or audience-pleasing stunts. ...

Researchers found that the thousands of people who still do go to church do so out of a sense of duty and not because it brings them any fulfilment. They report widespread criticism of the current fashion for "family" or "all age" services for bordering on entertainment rather than worship. One Shropshire churchgoer said: "I've seen balloons rising from the pulpit, fake moustaches and all manner of audience appeal ... but with no real message behind it."

Instead, churchgoers want to be told how to live a Christian life, and to understand how to evangelise in a society distracted by materialism. The report correlates statistics from the past 150 years showing attendance rising in the last half of the 19th century and peaking around 1905 before going into steady decline, with an inverse trend of crime, drunkenness and illegitimacy falling to a low at the turn of the 19th century and then steadily rising.

Familiar enough stuff for the great unwashed laity (by which I mean those who lack a master's degree in pastoral theology), but surprising indeed to encounter in the pages of The Times. I wish Ms. Gledhill has been a little less bashful about telling us who carried out the research, who commissioned it, where the findings were published, and to which of the antarctic ice floes the researchers are to be exiled for their hideous breach of ecclesiastical ettiquette.

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