evensong

It is now old news, but Rachael Held Evans CNN piece caused quite a stir over the past month or so. There was no shortage of responses, some good and some very, very bad.

At least one response has hit the nail on the head: Why Are Fewer People in Church? It’s the Economy, Stupid.

Because of economic pressure on the middle class, marriage itself is becoming a less-attainable goal (compare and contrast with this article about urbanization and the family from 1969). When people have to work two full-time jobs to raise a family, they don’t have time to go to a worship service on the weekend. Speaking of jobs, Wuthnow pointed out that it is less likely that anyone will be employed by the same employer in the same place for more than a few years. With all that job-and-place-changing, people don’t settle down anywhere, nor do their children get habituated to church attendance. At a recent church-planter training, Jim Griffith pointed out to us that since people can’t afford to take two-week vacations anymore, they wind up taking multiple weekend trips during the year, decreasing the time they have to participate in church activities. All of these lifestyle and economic influences make it less likely that people will commit to a church.

In short, church attendance is declining because the concept of a Sunday, let alone a Saturday, is declining. Catherine Pickstock made a similar observation in the late 90’s, stating that one of the characteristics of modernity is the flattening of all time for capitalist instrumentality. “People tend to eat at any time; shops are open all night long; and every week is a week without a Sunday,” writes Pickstock.

“The church in the United States shaped itself around the middle class, and grew as it grew. We do not live in that world anymore.” Amen to that. Though I do not agree with Dave’s solution about creating more Church plants. In fact, this would only seem to augment the very economic forces that destroy churches – and by extension, humanity – by creating more and more divisions and more and more markets.

What we need  is a sociality itself working to re-enchant reality in the face of a system that puts a dollar sign on everything. What we need is the classical notion of the Parish. That strange place where the smell of incense looms; the strange chanting noises of evensong; people taking time out of their day for the office of Compline; and by all means, and if at all possible, taking Sunday back as political act.

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