Updated: Oct 4
I asked every sociologist I interviewed whether communities created around secular activities outside of houses of worship could give the same level of wraparound support that churches, temples, and mosques are able to offer. Nearly across the board, the answer was no.
The lines above come from a New York Times newsletter, the fifth and final in a series about Americans moving away from religion.* Unlike so many pieces that explore the ongoing shift away from religious institutions, the author found many reasons to be hopeful. Among them are ways churches and other faith communities offer something other organizations cannot.
The author, Jessica Grose, quoted Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, who said, “I can go play soccer on a Sunday morning and hang out with people from different races and different class backgrounds, and we can bond. But I’m not doing that with my grandparents and my grandchildren.” A soccer team, Grose added, can’t provide spiritual solace in the face of death, it probably doesn’t have a weekly charitable call and there’s no sense of connection to a heritage that goes back generations.”
God created us for connection. In the beginning, God declared, “Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26a). The people who study such things have long recognized our human need for connection, presence, and affection. In the weeks ahead, we will explore our relationship with God and one another, which is part of our nature, and consider ways to shape and strengthen those bonds.
The kind of unique “wraparound” support that a faith community can offer takes shape when the people involved make it part of their identity. Grose’s series of newsletters and the many articles, books, and podcasts like it identify why so many Americans are never claiming or drifting away from religion. It is essential to know and understand those reasons and consider how they affect our way of being the church. Typically, the reasons share a view that churches and other faith communities often do not reflect their stated beliefs. Or, as one college student described the church in which she was raised, “It wasn’t a very loving or nurturing environment for someone’s faith.”**
I’ve witnessed beautiful and sacred acts of connection within Grace United Methodist Church. What I hope to see in the weeks ahead is growing confidence in our ability to be a reflection of the good news we celebrate every week. The “Connected” worship series will provide opportunities to consider and strengthen our relationship with God and one another. Along the way, we will celebrate our faith and our community. I hope you will plan to join worship at 9:00 or 11:00 on Sunday mornings as we learn, pray, worship, and build up our community as a place where all can connect with God, be known, and be needed.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)
Peace, Pastor Linda