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The front door of our house got stuck. Only with the greatest effort could we get in.  Problem?  The wood had swollen, the doorsill was broken and the lock mechanism had shifted in the door frame.  We hadn’t been there for a while and things had changed.

What will the post-covid parish look like?  The same or changed?

What will be the same: still declining membership, aging parishioners, beautiful building, the loving ministry of the Altar Guild, the altar a joy to look on, the history of the parish, the wistful memories of a fully enrolled Sunday school, ongoing maintenance bills, the dedication of musicians and the choir, the liturgies including more funerals, continued fellowship.

Different: even less income, even older parishioners, worries about the parish future, less parish activities and the impact of Zoom worship.

It’s too soon to identify the ways in which digital worship will leave its mark.  Will it result in some disengagement?  Once you get used to drinking coffee in your housecoat while you “attend” church, why give up the ease?  Parishes that choose to maintain both the Zoom and the real-place-together community may experience fragmentation. Parish members who prefer to stay at home with ZOOM may still come for special events like the bishop’s visit, Christmas Eve, a funeral.  Does that a parish family make?

Can the parish council invite the Zoomers back by:

  1. starting the service later, 11 instead of 10?
  2. offering to rent a van and driver to pick them up? 
  3. letting them know how much they are missed?

We fixed our door with an old, simple tool, a Dremel. Who knew?  But somewhere in a box of old tools, there it was, just the right tool. Now to fix the sill.

The doorsill of most Anglican churches is too high, metaphorically speaking.  If you are accustomed to stepping over it, you do not notice that it is a stumbling block for others. What is that sill? Tired liturgies, worn out language, unexplained customs, bad hymns, the constant need for donations, old theological thoughts, no, or almost no, baptisms. No children’s’ activities, the parish’s library books untouched.  In a word, passivity.  

When was the last time a parish made a serious attempt to seek the seekers, to reconnect with the children we baptized, to walk the neighbourhood with invitations, to organize a summer Christian Day Camp?   

The average age of parishioners in this diocese probably about 75?  If younger persons do not become engaged members, how many years does your parish have left?  

Think about your children, great and great grandchildren, your godchildren.  You pray for them but when was the last time you prayed with them?

Characteristics of younger generations we need to understand, make room for and respect.  (Some generalizations of course)

  1. Digital communication has changed the ways in which people think.  Not only what they think but how they think. Our long-winded linear way of theologizing and communicating is not very accessible to them.
  2.  They may still have respect for our faith and practice but they are not engaged with it.
  3. Modernism means that Big Stories are no longer meaningful.  The over-arching narrative on our Faith story from Genesis 1 to the end of Revelations does not connect with them.
  4. The language around monarchy, “King, Prince, Son of the Most High” etc. evokes the cult of banal Celebrity.  With all due respect to the current queen, of whom many Anglicans are very fond, royalty no longer elicits much interest. We have to find other wording for that historical sense of wise authority.  The concept of inherited rule seems odd and the idea of a “heavenly throne” for lots of people now is a story from “once upon a time.” 
  5. Their sense of reverence and awe for Creation is deeper than it has been in my generation.  
  6. Their commitment to restoration of the environment is deep and non-negotiable.
  7. Their strongest modality is visual not verbal. 
  8. They have genuine desire for spiritual life though they may not know where and how to access it.
  9. They have confusion about what/who Christ is.
  10. Many are Matthew 5:6 and with a sense of urgency.

Is your parish willing to adapt?  There is so much richness in our traditions of faith and practice: truth and beauty to share.

  • Make more of our visual liturgical richness
  • freshen up the churchy language without making it flat, (call in the poets)
  • a Sunday just for Seekers
  • a multi-generational parish retreat
  • free (other than cleaning cost) space for community groups including concerts, movies, dances and craft sales.
  • advertise the supervised child care available during worship
  • more Q & A times
  • the mysteries inherent in liturgy cannot be fully explicated, they can be presented in fresh ways
  • those Lectionary readings do not speak much to the post-print population
  • provide social/cultural context of the Bible
  • adapt the Lectionary readings and use different translations
  • a play instead of a homily?

This is the right moment for changes. COVID was a shock and some shocks wake you up. Who knows? There might be a new curiosity about what we actually do in church and why.

Even before the restrictions, many parishes were already in passive decline. “Oh, we’re just too old”.  Any newcomer unfamiliar with Anglican worship might be tempted to think,” pleasant Sunday recreational activity for seniors.”

My memory of the parish I joined 20 years ago: we had so much fun!  There was active discussion, Bible studies, book group, children, weekly events, even a theater group.

How to revive? “Oh, Anglicans don’t do revival.”  True, we do not do Big Tent/altar call/personal testimonies events (Is that such a bad idea?).

What would revival look like in your parish: a 2021 version of an Anglican Dremel.

Hannah Main-van der Kamp is a writer and gardener and

a parishioner at St. David and St. Paul,  Powell River


Contemporary Dremel Set

Stock photo ID:176062428

Photo Eric Ferguson