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So, this is depressing

So, this is depressing

Rod Webster, vice president and general manager of the Church Insurance Companies, lays out some numbers on the decline of our church. What do we do about it?


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Chris, I’m not certain that the churches in the cities and suburbs will be able to help.

I’m a member of an Episcopal Church in Berkeley, California, a parish in the midst of a search process for a new Rector. At a recent church forum that served as an update about our search process, I took a look around the room only to realize that ten years down the road, well more than half our members will be actively with us no longer. We are an aging parish; a good number will die while others will be in assisted living arrangements or nursing care. The parish might have enough income (via a property lease) to get by, but there will be few in the pews.

I worry … a lot.

Chris Arnold

I wouldn’t mind challenging the assumption that ever parish has to pay its own way. Of course it’s an ideal to which all parishes should strive, but why shouldn’t the wealthier parishes in the cities and suburbs support the Episcopal Church in rural areas (and in poor areas of the cities)? That’s what happens now of course with missions, but why should there be anything wrong with that?

TJ Hudson

I don’t see any acknowledgment here of alternative sources of parish leadership. Here in Western Maryland, the Mutual Ministry (sometimes called Total Ministry) model is working well. Parishes identify and raise up some of their own members as leaders, and there is no seminary debt to be paid off. Each person in ministry is self-supporting. It would seem to me that a willingness to let go of the “you have to go to seminary in order to be a priest” model would help in many of these situations.


In my small town, there is only one Episcopal church. St John is welcoming and inclusive. We are struggling financially, but we are not yet dependent upon the diocese, though I’m not sure we’ve paid our diocesan tithe.

There is an Episcopal church in the town 17 miles away, which is rather more conservative than ours. If our church closed, would I make the trip? When I was younger, it would have been a snap to make the drive, but at the age of 77, it looks somewhat different. How involved would I be in the church? Not very involved, I’m pretty sure.

All politics is local, and the same could be said for church. Would the next town over be local for me?

June Butler

Joe Snavely

I agree with your comment about creating alternative paths to ordination Tom. If for no other reason than that it will open up vocational possibilities to a wider population of people with a more diverse set of experiences and gifts.

However, while I do recognize that we need to empower laity to take on new roles and greater responsibility…this is vital and as much about spiritual health as financial pragmatism…I am not sure about bi-vocational clergy.

In some cases it may work, but we would have to seriously change our working and theological understandings of a pastor’s responsibilities if we ask her or him to do that job, and another, and have some sort of family life.

Am I missing something?

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