This year I attended Good Friday services and Easter services at two different churches. The churches are not identified this year due to the nature of my remarks. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter are important, introspective times of the liturgical year. They can be times of intense reflection and deep emotion as one considers the impact of the commemorated events.
The lack of attendees at both Good Friday services surprised me as I was attending several of the larger local churches. Only a small fraction of both church’s memberships were in attendance. I understand some families have small children and are reluctant to attend for their sake. But, there were children evident in both of the services I attended. A blogger I follow, Rev. Ken Collins, wrote the following in his blog.
“I observe that in just about any church you choose, the Easter Sunday service is full to the brim with people who at least in some symbolic way are willing to shout hosanna to the King and lay palm branches down in His path. The Good Friday service, like the crucifixion it commemorates, is poorly attended if it is held at all.
Personally, I feel the Good Friday service is an excellent way to connect with the price paid for our redemption. This year, in both services, I felt the impact of the crucifixion in a way I never have before. It was a time that touched my heart and mind. One of the services was extremely dark with a minimum of music, three songs I believe, and scripture reading by the pastors. The lights were gradually extinguished at the end along with the candles we lit upon entering. Both services were excellent and provided a suitable backdrop for Christian reflection.
Easter Services at both churches were joyful, full of music, good cheer, and Christian love. Both were colorful, but possibly lacking the unrestrained joy to which Bishop N.T. Wright refers in the passage I quoted in my April 5 post on this blog. I believe Good Friday observance, like other religious observances, is possibly a reflection of a gradual drift from religiosity to “spirituality”.
A recent USA TODAY article commented on this phenomenom, based on a survey of “Millennials” (18-29 yr olds).
The article noted “Most young adults today don’t pray, don’t worship and don’t read the Bible, a major survey by a Christian research firm shows.
If the trends continue, “the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. In the group’s survey of 1,200 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% say they’re “really more spiritual than religious.”
Among the 65% who call themselves Christian, “many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only,” Rainer says. “Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.”
Recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey research also bears this out, not only for the Millennial’s but for other age groups. Both surveys reflect a stark contrast to the explosion of Christianity in the global south.
Although I found extreme meaning in Holy Week and Easter services, others are not finding this meaning because they are drifting away. Some of the reasons this is happening are continually documented in this blog and some are due to deeper issues space does not permit us to explore at the moment. Nonetheless, this should be cause for concern by Christians in Alaska, and a challenge meriting attention.”