-by Rev. Jeff Gannon
Last week, I was sharing the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition article titled, “”Europe’s Empty Churches Go on Sale.” Naftali Bendavid, the journalist, created quite a stir within my soul.
Last week in my blog, I was reflecting on the journalist’s claim that Christianity is declining at a rapid rate in Europe and based on current trends, America is not too far behind. I am not interested in getting on the negative bandwagon just to have something to complain and worry about. When we feel fear or perceive threat, it is very easy to do that. I am more interested in solutions. I want, through this blog, to name the issues and seek creative solutions together.
The demographics are clear about our current reality in the neighborhood around Chapel Hill. According to Percept, a national demographics company, 16% or less of the persons who live within three miles of Chapel Hill to the east, attend worship services on a regular basis (two times a month is the average of a regular church-goer in 2015).
To say it differently, 75% of our neighbors do not attend worship services regularly, if at all.
What are we going to do about it? Does this statistic create a stir in our souls individually or in our collective soul as a congregation?
I am of the opinion the words of St. Augustine still ring true today, “Our hearts are restless until they come to rest in Thee.” I think each one of us has a spiritual longing only God can fulfill. We see the “itch” in the tragedy of people’s lives – addiction, suicide, domestic abuse, etc. The human soul is seeking pleasure and purpose in all the wrong places. The challenge we face as a faith community is to know where the “itch” is and “scratch” accordingly.
Without being too simplistic for a complex problem, generally speaking, the faith community often “scratches” where people do not “itch.”
For the next several weeks, I want to talk about an “itch” and a “scratch,” a problem and a potential solution.
One of the “itches” of our neighborhood….the high rate of divorce. You have heard the national statistic that 50% of all marriages fail. Interestingly enough, in Sedgwick County (albeit does not include Butler of which many who reside in our neighborhood are a part) the divorce rate is 78%. The only County in the State of Kansas with a higher divorce rate is Reno (Hutchinson) and at last check is was 87%. I was surprised Johnson County was not as high as Sedgwick and Reno Counties.
What are we as a faith community called Chapel Hill going to about this current reality?
First, we are going to live our mission and not condemn anyone. This is not about judgment, this is about healing and wholeness. We are going to be faithful to our mission and preach a message of grace and forgiveness. When persons are broken, they need a safe place to heal.
Secondly, following spring break we will be offering a class on healthy marriages on Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., with children and youth in Christian education.
Thirdly, during the month of May, we always have a sermon series on how to heal and grow our relationships. We will do the same each year.
Fourthly, I want to hear from you….what are we not doing, and what could we be doing? What are your ideas of how to be relevant to our neighborhood when it comes to this issue? Please let me know….please email me at email@example.com
Have a blessed week and please join me in praying for the families in our neighborhood who need the healing touch of Jesus.