Doubtlessly, most of our readers will be attending church this weekend, enjoying the melodic, memory-filled strains of the classic Christmas carols, hearing comforting words from clergy, and perhaps enjoying the warm glow of candlelight in the faces of parishioners at Christmas Eve services.
These soul-stirring sights and sounds, which fill us with the spirit of love and hope, won’t be experienced again until next year.
Or will they?
With the pressures of employment, homemaking and other commitments, as many as half of those attending church this weekend won’t be attending services until Easter or next Christmas — motivated by a sense of spiritual duty or adherence to tradition.
But we at Denton Publications propose a challenge to those of us who belong to the above group of occasional church attendees.
It’s a challenge that reaps many benefits — spiritually, emotionally and socially.
Why not return to church the following week — and attend regularly throughout the year?
Those who return to church on New Year’s Day and continue the practice through 2012 are likely to experience infusions of holiday joy, love, and hope over and over again, uplifting their pressured lives.
It’s not only for raising one’s spiritual awareness and to build a foundation of faith, but to become more involved in such a vital element of the community.
Church activities have for centuries been a mainstay of community life.
Not only do local churches’ social events, and their youth programs provide vital life-long grounding, but their various activities and missions are vital in connecting all of us in such crucial ways.
Also important are the various community outreach programs, whether it’s food pantries, clothing drives, or collections for families who’ve faced calamities or merely unfortunate circumstances.
It’s important to be aware that the churches in the Adirondacks and other rural areas need our involvement more than ever.
Studies by various denominations have confirmed that rural churches in America and Europe have been losing members at a substantial rate.
The Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project report, released in 2009 by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, showed that the Adirondacks, particularly the central regions, have lost up to one-third of their population since 1970.
The number of children living year-round in the Adirondacks have decreased even more drastically, according to the report’s recent update.
It’s likely due to the young adults moving out of the region for better job opportunities and launching their families elsewhere.
This is particularly hard on the churches here, as it’s the young children that have traditionally drawn their parents into church life. The result of this population hemorrhaging has been a lot of empty pews, scarce attendance at Sunday schools, and elimination of many church social events and outreach programs.
Add to these trends the new attitude espoused by Baby Boomers and their offspring that stresses individualism and more and more people are interested in church only on their own terms.
With this shift in demographics and attitude — and social media and electronic media increasingly competing for our time and attention — the families who remain here have an ever-greater responsibility to keep the churches not only alive and solvent, but vibrant and influential.
Let’s head back to church Jan. 1 and thereafter.
We need our churches and their activities, and they need us.
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