Attending divinity school in the 1970s, I had to ask a hard question: did I believe enough church ‘was left’ for me to have a career in parish ministry. Corrosive forces were already at work eroding the church in American homes and society. From 1963 to 1985, parish ministry switched from a high status/low stress job to low status/high stress job. Gamely, I still dove into the deep end of the pool. But I’m sad to say, the harbinger of coming hard times is confirmed around us today.
Church historian Joe Pankowski tells how FCC, D originated in a ‘mother church’, the First Congregational Church of Stamford. Did you know that FCC, Stamford shuttered its windows and closed its doors four weeks ago? The space where that English Gothic church has served at Stamford’s heart will go high rise condo.
I attended their farewell Wine and Cheese Party the first Saturday night in March. Our Conference Minister, Kent Siladi, was raised in that church. The woman who was my Cape Cod dental hygienist was also was raised in that church. They said bold goodbyes. Thirty remaining members hope to relaunch their FCC elsewhere in Stamford with funds from selling their property. But truly, the sadness of time slipping through fingers like sand was also written on the faces of those present.
Did you realize 25 churches have closed daily in North America since the 1980s.
This story is not being told. Expiring churches must figure out what to do with their buildings. In downtown Toronto, many church buildings are luxury condos with units fetching a million dollars or more. In Canada some 20% of Catholic churches have been deconsecrated since 2000 amid a great drop in attendance.
I am not complaining. No one likes a whiner and we have seen this coming for a long time. Neither am I a shrill Chicken Little. No one likes the panic of alarmists. But as your pastor, I’m charged to read the signs of the times and interpret them.
When it comes to our spiritual home, we can no longer afford to take anything for granted anymore. What does that mean? If you think FCC, Darien will always be here because we always have, think again. As our roof nearly caved in, many of our members assumed other social partners would step up to help. I could only shake my head. No way in Hades would that happen! The world doesn’t give us helps anymore. All props society used to plant around the church are now gone. Think of that as you wake on Sunday and wonder if it’s worth it to attend worship.
We cannot take anything for granted anymore. Thinking of Lily Voigt’s baptism last Sunday, the world did nothing to help us raise her as a Christian. Thinking of misplacing our mail and forgetting to pledge, every year the gaffe of such casual indifference grows harder for us to overcome. Thinking of carrying the cross on Good Friday; showing up to feed our hungry neighbors; serving as Deacons on Sundays or making up a budget as Stewards—we can’t take any of it for granted.
But maybe being shaken from complacency is a good thing. Maybe it is even a harbinger of renewal. Demographics could also shift back in our favor. Did you know the era of the American Revolution was lowest in USA church attendance?
Will you join me in not taking anything for granted any portion of our spiritual life?
-Rev. Dale Rosenberger