What is the Roman Catholic Church in England doing about evangelisation (aka the Great Commission)? As far as I can see, the square root of bugger all. Any commercial organisation which took as relaxed a view to ‘marketing and sales’ would have dismal prospects. I am told that my parish church, St Ann’s in Stretford, used to have seven masses every Sunday, every one packed out. Now we have three, with room for at least fifty more worshippers at each one. This is a fact which demands a response. Nobody is responding.
The situation in the C of E is worse. At least our clergy believe in God. I have known two C of E clergymen who don’t. One used to lie routinely about attendance figures.
The Salford Diocese website makes reference to ‘social responsibility’ and ‘child abuse’. All well and good; but what kind of influence will we have if we continue to haemorrhage members?
I don’t even know who to talk to about my anxiety.
It seems that a few years ago there were discussions about falling attendance. One suggestion was that there should be ‘greeters’ at the door who job would be to hand out missals and newsletters. Splendid – but not enough.
It seems that the Church has not reacted to the general culture’s loss of interest in religion. The First World War was a massive blow to religiosity, unsurprisingly. Catholic families provided a certain momentum and that momentum has been fading ever since. For a hundred years the Church authorities have neglected a crisis. When a priest is given charge of a parish, is he told that he has a responsibility to halt and to reverse any decline in attendance? It seems not. Salespersons are given targets and are rewarded for achieving and exceeding them. Virtue is rewarded – and it should be.
Virtue is the bedrock of society. Capitalism and Democracy require virtuous citizens. Christianity has been the bedrock of virtue in the West. Without Christianity virtue is not even on the agenda. We are in trouble.
Clearly, the clergy are not alone in being in dereliction of duty. Ordinary lay people should, of course, do more. But the clergy are our leaders. They should challenge us. But they don’t. Their sermons are anodyne. When did you last hear a sermon that challenged you intellectually?