Sunday, 24 January 2010

With what will we replace the Church?

About twice a month I give talks about the work of a particular charity to groups of individuals and clubs in the South of England. As an atheist I do this not from any religious conviction, but because I think it is the right thing to do to help my fellow humans. I am always amazed by the generosity of my audiences.
Something that strikes me is the number of occasions that the venue is a Church Hall, or the group has close links with the local Church. Whether or not my audience have any deeply held religious convictions I cannot tell, but from the various discussions I have had, it would appear that many are really there because it provides them with a group of friends and sense of belonging. That fact that it is centred on the Church appears to be incidental, and they hold no strong religious views.
There is a part of me that would like people to do away with Churches, and replace superstition with enlightenment, but what I can't fathom is what will replace the Church as a pastoral support.
The steady downward trend in congregations appears to continue inexorably. The average age of active members of the churches gets ever older. Parishes amalgamate or cease to exist. Churches are sold and converted to other uses. Will secular organisations emerge to take the place of the Church as it finally fades away to a sideline in history?

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