Sunday, July 19, 2009

Faithful of Allentown – Why don’t they like us anymore?

"Well we are living here in Allentown
And they're closing all the factories down…" Billy Joel
(Or more appropriately these days – They’re closing all the churches down...)

The opening title is I think from the POV of Parishioners of 47 Allentown Diocese churches closed in the past year. In typical arrogant RC archaic hierarchical, myopic management style, the outgoing Bishop Cullen cleaned all the shit off his desk – 47 Parishes in time for his mandatory retirement at age 75. The new guy will only have to worry about disposal of real estate assets and sending the cash to Rome - cushy job assignment. I hear he is a scholar like the pope.

Allentown Diocese Church Closings – Photo Gallery

An article today from Allentown about how some are getting along in the new compressed, condensed parish compactor solution – squeezing two or three parishes together with a part time priest to say one or two masses a week on an itinerate schedule commuting from parish to parish to say those masses – “modern RC management styles 101” to the layman.

Appeals and a prayer

I can see where a lot of ethnic RC churches should be closed as church attendance dwindles among the young. A lot of these old ethnic enclaves are sometimes situated within a block or two of each other. I see that demographic aspect of it from my own youth in Philly. The rest of it is management from the top, from the local bishop, from the local Cardinal, from the cleric in Rome deciding the fate of parishes in upstate Pennsylvania over his cappuccino at a sidewalk café in Rome.

My cynicism, my empathy for the little people dispatched from life long places of worship does not change anything. As sometimes happens lately, I was reading a different religious story when someone sent the article today from Allentown.

My concept, my feel for religion, comfortable feel for faith is for local control. In that sense I took part of my opening title from an article from a Baptist Pastor with his small congregation in Virginia.

Sermon Criticism- Why don’t they like us anymore?

Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus But Not The Church, is a case-study of several young adults Kimball interviewed. Basically, they consider themselves to be spiritual, but not religious — just like our famous book from the 1970s. But here’s what they don’t like about the church. These are the actual chapter titles in Kimball’s book –

• The church is an organized religion with a political agenda.
• The church is judgmental and negative.
• The church is dominated by males and oppresses females.
• The church is homophobic (meaning, the church fears and/or hates homosexuals)
• The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong.
• The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally.
Apparently the Baptists have some of the same problems in attracting youth, among others to gather in church on Sunday, same as the Catholics.

Perhaps ”we need fresh moral guidelines to address the structural and systemic sinfulness of our time”. *

That being said Pastor Chuck Warnock of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, VA also has a bit of a visionary thing that might be applied to keeping some church complexes in Allentown open – to raise cash to pay electricity etc. Pastor Warnock looks to the past of self sufficiency – local control – as was the case in Celtic monasteries of the past.

The Abbey Church

It is not necessarily a solution but I think of old rectories, convents, school halls and say why can’t they be used to make a few bucks as youth hostels, stopping off places for traveling the road in an increasingly budget conscience America.

Churches used to be the center of real neighborhoods and real communities - not virtual. In the past half century of Wharton Spreadsheet Mythology, they, along with people, have merely become penciled in figures in some distant, hands off, no accountability, front office chancellery.

As the human culture becomes more global in orientation, the more local traditions need to be retained, maintained and reframed to offset the new global madness.

* John Mark Ministries - Book Review