There is a campaign causing a stir and some division in our community called ‘Save Our Steeples’ which, I think, should be re-named, ‘Where’s All the people?’
Remember the little ditty we used to say to our kids? With fingers intertwined and index fingers pointed upward, we’d say, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and here’s all the people.” In some areas across the country, it has become, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors, but where’s all the people?”
Don’t get me wrong, these historical churches are beautiful to be sure, and a rich part of our history. But how do you get to a point when they become the focus and more important than the people inside them?
You see, we have bigger problems in the Church. Attendance has been in decline for years across the country. People aren’t going to church like our grandparents did. They aren’t contributing on a regular basis, like our parents and grandparents did. They aren’t teaching the faith in their homes like our great-grandparents did.
So a decline in people also means a decline in priests for all of these churches. There is a priest shortage. Many priests who have retired are still being called to serve. We have priests in their 80’s and yes, even a 90-year-old priest, God love him, still serving in our area! –Where’s the ‘Save Our Priests’ campaign?
In my little rural area, we have seven Catholic churches–and four priests. Four priests who have been running themselves ragged trying to make sure all the people are getting the Sacraments and services they need, while also trying to figure out how all this downsizing is going to work and listening to everyone’s complaints and opinions on the matter and even threatening to withhold their dollars if things don’t go their way.
Fear causes people to do some strange things, doesn’t it? Change is hard, I get that. But sometimes change is exactly what we need to help us focus on what is really important. We cannot be afraid of change and of moving forward.
Yes, these old church buildings are very beautiful and a part of our history. But saving these buildings isn’t going to solve the problem of a priest shortage. A beautiful building does not bring people to the Lord. We are focused on the wrong things. We need to focus on the people, not the buildings. Where’s all the people who used to fill these buildings? Let us focus on how we can change the trajectory of what is happening by addressing the real problem. We aren’t doing something right if our churches aren’t full. We can’t maintain buildings if our children and grandchildren won’t be attending and contributing.
We need to change the hearts of people by focusing on evangelizing and bringing more people back into the church. Our children and grandchildren need to be taught what it means to belong to the family of God. It’s not about saving steeples, it’s about saving people.
It’s time for a change. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working. God is trying to lead us in another direction, but we are still stuck in our past, afraid of change. But let’s step out in faith trusting that He will take care of us. “Fear not!” He is always with us.
You may be saying that this doesn’t really have anything to do with me. But it does, friends. Because we are all afraid of change in our lives. We all like being comfortable and feel threatened by change. But change is coming for us all. Nothing in this life stays the same. And we need to know how to handle it. Not with fear, but by trust in the Lord and embracing Him with a positive attitude. Continue to live in His ways and statutes and continue to love others, not the ‘buildings’, the stuff of this world, but the people inside who were created to love Him.
- This week, reach out to someone you know who isn’t attending church and ask them to go with you. That can be hard, I know, but we have to learn to do hard things again.
- Take someone who is homebound (maybe can’t drive themselves, but still mobile) to church.
- Write down in your journal or planner, a change in your life you are struggling with. Ask God to show you how to handle it in a positive way. How can you use this change to help you grow as a child of God?
Change is good! It helps us grow. It makes us stronger and helps us experience life to the fullest. Thank God for change, even when it is hard.
Thanks for following along. I appreciate you. God bless.–Barb