Attending Worship Services is a Matter of Faith and More
August 14, 2012
ATTENDING WORSHIP SERVICES IS A MATTER OF FAITH AND MORE
(DENVER) – Millions of people attend weekly religious services, yet numerous studies indicate that Americans are moving away from mainline denominations toward self-identification as “spiritual, but not religious.” However, the faithful remain so – for many reasons – from intensely personal to social ones.
“Having grown up the daughter of a minister, my attending church was not an option. Now, I see it as a necessity. I truly miss it when I don’t go regularly. Church is a part of my social network, my support system, and continues to educate me in many ways. I take my children to church because I want them to see what a meaningful support system it can be in their Christian development and faith,” said Alisha Eno, a Seventh-day Adventist and congregant at Littleton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Littleton, Colo.
According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2007), Eno is not alone, since nearly 84 percent of Americans claim some religious affiliation and 43 percent claim regular attendance at worship services (Gallop Research Organization, 2010). The sense of community that regular participation provides is also a factor in attendance.
Phillips United Methodist Church Youth Minister, Lakewood, Colo., and Iliff student in the Master of Divinity (MDIV) program, Brad Walston believes a church community feeds minds and souls and provides a sense of community and belonging in ways not found elsewhere.
“Church is community,” Walston said. “It’s important for people to have a sense of community and to have a minister who advocates for them,” he said. “I advocate for kids through ministry and strongly believe that growth comes for kids through worship. Faith and worship is multi-generational and should be embraced and observed together as one community.”
Another trend that influences attendance is the mixing of religious traditions. The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life’s “Religious Landscape Survey” (2008) found that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions.
In their research, Pew found that one-third of Americans (35 percent) say they regularly (9 percent) or occasionally (26 percent) attend religious services at more than one place, and most of these (24 percent of the public overall) indicate they sometimes attend religious services of a faith different from their own. Aside from when they are traveling and special events like weddings and funerals, three-in-ten Protestants attend services outside their own denomination, and one-fifth of Catholics say they sometimes attend non-Catholic services.
Among those who attend religious services at least once a week, nearly four-in-ten (39 percent) say they attend at multiple places and nearly three-in-ten (28 percent) go to services outside their own faith.“I think one might be surprised how many of our rituals come from other traditions or the blending of multiple traditions,” said Tim Zeckser, an Iliff School of Theology alumnus, who studied interreligious dialogue during his time at Iliff. “For me, if I can first respect, then incorporate a ritual from another tradition, my worship experience becomes much more wholly spiritual and socially conscious.”
The Iliff School of Theology is a graduate theological school related to the United Methodist Church, serving more than 38 different faith traditions. Founded in 1892, the school provides several degree programs, including a Joint Ph.D. Program with the University of Denver.