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BCP and church growth?

BCP and church growth?

A commenter raised the question on the Café about there relationship between The Episcopal Church’s current decline and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Was the change from Morning Prayer to a more Eucharistic centered worship a cause. Ever curious about statistics we asked Kirk Hadaway, Program Officer: Congregational Research, Evangelism & Congregational Life Center, the church’s keeper and collator of all things statistical. His response (shared with permission):

I suppose that someone would have had to look at change at the congregational level in order to determine if there was a correlation. However, we cannot go back in time to do that study.

Our lowest point in terms of statistical decline was in the early to mid-1970s, so things had begun to improve prior to 1979 and continued to do so through the late 1990s. Our short-lived plateau turned into a slight decline in 2002 and got worse thereafter. So I cannot see how HE vs. MP has anything to do with the membership decline. In fact, it probably helped us attract many disaffected Roman Catholics and seekers in the 1980s and 1990s.



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Canon K F KKing Tssf

“and promulgate them (“the truths of the Christian Gospel”) in the clearest, plainest and most affecting manner” — the Preface to the 1789 BCP = majestic simplicity . . . all lost in our desperate effort to attract folks, “do things MY way” and other abberations. There is a place for dignity, respect AND “charisma.”

Bill Dilworth

When I started going to my present parish I had been away from the Episcopal Church (and, indeed, Christianity) for some time. I didn’t know exactly if I wanted to come back, but I found myself cautiously slipping into a back pew, near the door, one Sunday morning. I’d made the mistake of visiting an Episcopal parish in a neighboring town not long before, and signing their guest register; not only did I get lots of mailings, but they called to invite me back so much that it almost felt a little like being stalked. Anyway, I wanted to check this church out, but I wanted to be able to make a quick getaway.

The ushers were polite but not pushy; there was no socializing before the service, and no one tried to be my new best friend during the Peace. At the end I beat my hasty retreat, but there was no reason to be quite so hasty: no one was trying to corral me.

The next week, or maybe the one after, I went back, and then the next week, and then the next. People recognized me when I came in and nodded “hello,” so I wasn’t invisible, but I still kept to myself, and the congregation let me. I would shake the priests’ hands after the services, but didn’t go to coffee hour or stick around to chat. It wasn’t why I was there.

Eventually, when I was ready, I became less – skittish? closed? distant? shy? – and started opening up more. I met more people. I became involved. I had my letter if transfer sent from my old, long ago parish. That was all about seven years ago. Now I know lots of people, I’m a regular acolyte/lector/subdeacon, and a member of the vestry. But it might not have turned out like that if the parish had been unwilling to give me my space.

We’re involved in a parish development process, complete with outside professional consultant. We would like to increase our membership, and the consultant has given us advice on how to welcome people and ideas about how to grow community. I’m a little afraid lest we become a parish that won’t give newcomers – or, indeed, old hands – their space if they want it. Sometimes and for some people, it’s very important.

Nicole Porter

Every so often we visit our relative’s church, she’s AME. They do a lot of hand holding “touch your neighboor and tell them blah blah,lol” there. I’m not a fan of it but I take part because that is their way of doing things. As far as passing the peace in my parish, a simple handshake is alright by me. My husband and I keep it simple. We left the Baptist church in our teens for a reason,lol!!

H. E. Baber

I went to Saddleback (on assignment for a paper for whose religion section I write). One of the features that I thought was excellent was the extent to which they give participants a choice about the way in which they want to be involved. You can go, as I did, as an observer without making contact: you can participate in as impersonal a way as you would going to a shopping mall, park or any other public place. Or you can become involved in any one of a variety of small groups Saddleback runs. Or anything in between.

There’s nothing wrong with “community” if that’s what you want. But not if it’s not what you want: we need choice, not being pushed in the direction that the Powers believe is good for us.

BTW I teach at a Catholic college. Every noon there is mass at the chapel down the hall from me. Sometimes I feel like going, but I’m put off by the Peace and the hand-holding. I don’t belong because I’m not Catholic. I’d like to go if I could just sneak in and not be noticed. But the “community” at this mass locks me out. Yes I know I’d be welcomed, but I just don’t feel comfortable with being noticed. And even in Episcopal churches, where I do belong, where I know I have a right to be, I don’t want to be noticed or have to interact with people–any more than I want to interact with people at my local supermarket or in the street.

The Church needs to be a little more tolerant and recognize that this is a legitimate preference–not a symptom of mental illness or sin or something that needs to be fixed.

Bill Dilworth

My parish uses Rite I all the time (via the Anglican Service Book). But we also pass the Peace – although usually not ad nauseum as in some places, where it becomes a chance to keep up with your fellow parishioners (something better left for coffee hour, IMNSHO).

I sort of understand HE Baber’s point about impersonal worship a little. When I was an RC the part of the Mass I really disliked was holding hands at the Our Father. I don’t want to be touched that long by strangers, thank you – and no, I will not be volunteering to have my feet washed at the Maundy Thursday service, either, thank you very much. 😉

Usually I receive Commnion on the tongue in my home parish. When receiving elsewhere, though, I receive it the way I was taught in Confirmation class, in my outstretched hands, so as not to draw attention to myself or freak out the priest. Until recently, that is. I was on vacation and went to church as usual on Sunday morning. As the priest came around distributing Communion,, he took the opportunity to squeeze everyone’s hand as he placed the Host in the person’s palm. In order to avoid that gratuitous piece of touchy-feeliness, when he got to me I stuck out my tongue. That’s my default position now. Let ’em think I’m a visiting RC or something!

Seriously, though, I question the wisdom of clergy who (evidently) think, “What this liturgy needs is a human touch. Specifically, it needs more *me* in it. ” And people’s need or desire for being touched varies widely. Please don’t assume I want you touching me unless the rubrics tell you to.

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