Action Alert!

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.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 08, 2005 8:38 PM ET USA

    Just watch the Mass and hear the priests at EWTN and you will see what the Church used to be. Give me that old time religion! Enough of the New Wave Good Time Rock and Roll Masses! It's the Sacrifice of the Mass not the Mass Showtime featuring friendly Father Bob who will not preach on sin, abortion, hell or any of that horrid stuff.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 08, 2005 7:40 PM ET USA

    Funny, but in my Church, the pews are so crowded that we put folding chairs in the aisle, and remote TV for two overflow rooms. Also it seems that all participants take the Eucharist in a dignified manner, and we have significant good music from the choir loft: mostly from "Lead Me, Guide Me." What are we doing wrong? AMDG

  • Posted by: - Mar. 08, 2005 6:48 PM ET USA

    I have begun to object to this "feminizing" of the liturgy. Any sensible woman is just as repulse by the slop as any sensible man. The Liturgy has been sentimentalized and romanticized but I find that liberal males are just as attracted by such as silly women. I recently told my spiritual director that all the sentimental Catholic devotions so many objected to pre-Vatican II haven't gone away. What was once confined to the pews and private devotion are now blatantly displayed in the Liturgy.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 08, 2005 2:22 PM ET USA

    Now we all know that none of this happens in our local Chgo NW Side parishes, right? No gimmicks, no kids around the altar at the Consecration, no favorite politically correct intentions, no drum players imitating a strip show band! Right? I mean there are no parishes where pastors wish that anyone could and should receive the Eucharist, or have their favorite layperson deliver the homily, or have their music director write the spiritual notes. No dishabited nuns pushing enneagrams. Good!

  • Posted by: - Mar. 08, 2005 1:04 PM ET USA

    I have a problem with "moral values and treasured beliefs", preferring moral virtues and Truths neither of which are relative. This shows two things. One, as entertainment, a church is categorically inferior to stage, radio, and big/TV screens, and not really worth getting out of bed for. Second, the penchant for feminizing the liturgy leads only to sentimentalization for which there are no anchors. Sowing the wind only reaps a whirlwind.