Sunday, May 1st:
A big day at St. John’s: Two baptisms at the 10 a.m., an announcement regarding the new rector and confirmation in the afternoon!
Standing during the Eucharistic Prayer:
At the Eucharistic prayer on Easter Sunday, I invited everyone to remain standing and I quoted the historical reason for that request. In the early church standing was seen as a mark of respect, honor, and Easter joy. It is still customary for people to stand in non-religious situations as a sign of respect for an honored guest. It was at the Council Nicea (c.325) that it was decided that on Sundays and during the Easter Season, prayers should always be said while standing rather than while kneeling.
Although bowing and kneeling also are traditional postures during prayer, in earlier centuries kneeling was considered more as a symbol of penance for sin rather than a sign of respect during prayer. Thus, in early Christianity, kneeling was appropriate during Lent or at other times of penance, but not on days of joy.
Mission in Minnesota:
I am going to dazzle you with some statistics from 2009. This comes from an article in THE WEEK magazine of November 6th of that year. The article is entitled, “Losing our religion.” The by-line reads, “The ranks of the nation’s religiously unaffiliated—so called Nones—are growing rapidly. Is organized religion fading?”
The article goes on to reveal that a new study by researchers at Trinity College found that 34 million adult Americans—about 15 percent of the population—have no religious affiliation. In 1990, just 8 percent of the population claimed no affiliation. This category of non-believers is called the Nones – because when asked what religion they are a member of, the answer is: None.
They are more likely to live in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest. In Vermont, they actually make up the largest single “denomination.” They are, on average, younger than the general population, which makes them the fastest growing segment of the religious landscape. I quote, “Nones are not a fringe group anymore, and are now part of Middle America.”
What do they believe? A majority of Nones believe in God and a third say they pray weekly or daily. “There is a variety of belief in God among the Nones, ranging from theism to atheism, although the largest proportion (59 percent) is agnostic or deist. A small minority are atheists. Nones are simply more likely to be skeptics. Nones are not particularly superstitious or partial to New Age beliefs and they are more accepting of human evolution than the general U.S. population. Most Nones are first generation, as only 32 percent of current Nones report they had no religion at age 12. That is to say, two-thirds were raised with a religion.”
Where do we, the Episcopal Church, fit into this scenario? One more quote: “In the future, the U.S. can expect to have more Nones, given that 22 percent of adults under the age of 30 identify themselves as such, and that they will become tomorrow’s parents. Cragun suggests that, “If current trends continue, the likely outcome is that in two decades, the Nones could account for about one-quarter of the U.S. population.”
Easter Sunday at announcement time I affirmed the children in the worship service, commenting on their “noise” as pleasant and joyful to hear. I recalled the story of the disciples attempting to prevent children from approaching Jesus, who then replied, “Forbid them not for such is the kingdom of heaven.” If we want the Episcopal Church to grow, to be included in the missionary work of being Christian, welcoming children into church is going to be critical.
A member of the parish shared with me some creative ideas about the design of a service to accommodate young families. I am going to pass that along to your new rector as I believe it warrants consideration. No, you don’t have to change what you are doing currently but adding a service that is different and meets the needs of young families may be an opportunity to enter the mission field of the un-churched right in the middle of Saint Paul, Minnesota! Making “nones” active, participative believers is a challenge worth taking.