“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead, 20th century
Dear Members and Friends,
The day after the inauguration, Onision (Gregory Jackson), a popular creator of YouTube videos, started the hashtag #ImNotGoingtoChurchBecause on Twitter. The hashtag quickly went viral, trending as the third most popular hashtag on Twitter for January 22nd. Several people responded saying they did not go to church because of their disapproval for religious politicians who use faith to manipulate others. Some voiced their disappointment with the church due to pain they had personally experienced inflicted by religious people. Still others told why they do go to church. Most of the criticism that was voiced on this hashtag came from skeptics with cynical attitudes towards religion. Reasons for not attending church varied widely and included (but were not limited to) abuse or sex scandals within church leadership, judgmental attitudes from religious folks, exclusion of LGBT persons, lack of dialogue and critical thinking, promoting the prosperity gospel, general busyness and genuine disbelief in God.
While this recent hashtag conversation might suggest that church is irrelevant, not everyone believes that, even those who criticize it. Even though church attendance has declined in the U.S. over the past 30 years, America remains a devout nation. According to the Association of Religion Date, four in 10 Americans claim to attend church weekly. Approximately 73 percent of Americans identify as Christian, agreeing that religious faith is important, according to the Barna Research Group.
People are rediscovering the church. Because while the church may have its share of problems, it is a still a vital place for Christian growth. As part of a church we are loved, encouraged, and even challenged by others. Church is also a place of refuge. Many people are discovering the need to come out of their homes, out from behind their computer screens, and to engage with others in their communities. The Church provides an excellent setting of openness and welcome; a place for dialogue, for asking questions about life, for sharing fears and concerns, and for finding reasons for hope. Church is a place where we can strategize together on how to engage the world in a better way to affirm all people, advocate for all people, and spread God’s message of love, acceptance, forgiveness and peace.
Setting aside time for church is a big step toward making and proclaiming God a priority in our lives. As followers of Jesus, the church is vital and relevant to our faith development. We are not meant to live isolated from others believers. We are called to serve God and to serve others in God’s world as one body in Christ.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida