Researchers tell us that more people are interested in spiritual matters, even in what Christianity believes vs. what it currently looks like, than perhaps ever before. Nevertheless, intense heat is generated over the term “Christian” by people who are afraid to ask the questions on their heart “without fear of being regarded as out of bounds.”
I believe Christine Whittaker calls us to some deep thinking on the issue of what Christianity will look like in the 21st Century. How might we be changed if we indeed decide to answer the questions being asked today. If we grow into the likeness of Jesus, as a place where people can worship "in Spirit" and "ask questions without fear of being regarded as out of bounds," might we become like the early church?
AFTER YOU READ THE ARTICLE PLEASE TELL ME "WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?"
HOLLISTON — What will Christianity look like in the 21st century? How will it differ from, for example, Christian faith as expressed in the mid-20th century?
The first response of many American Christians would probably be that Christian faith will not change because it is timeless. But in fact, Christianity has varied significantly over the course of the past 2,000 years.
What seems clear now is that the predictions frequently made 50 years ago concerning the demise of Christianity, and indeed of most forms of religious expression, are not accurate. One of the foremost experts on religion in the United States during the past half-century is Professor Harvey Cox, who retired last year from a long career teaching at Harvard Divinity School.
His book, “The Secular City,” published in 1965, garnered enormous attention for a book on theology. In it, Professor Cox argued that God could be just as present in the secular as in the religious realms of life and that we should not cramp God by trying to confine the divine presence to some particular spiritual or ecclesial sector.
He spoke last week to a group of Episcopal clergy and lay people at an event hosted by the Trustees of Donations, the board that runs an investment fund for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and its parishes that is similar to a mutual fund.
The Trustees of Donations are celebrating their 200th anniversary, but rather than focus on the past, they decided to invite one of the country’s most astute observers of trends in religious life to talk about “The Future of Faith,” as Professor Cox’s new book is titled.
I found his talk fascinating not because it contained new research, but rather for the way he brought together recent scholarship with observations from widespread travel. The links he made confirmed impressions I have gained during the past decade observing Christian communities both in the United States and overseas.
This diversity offers a model for Christians today, in what Professor Cox terms an age of the spirit, characterized by greater emphasis on satisfying spiritual desire. The number of churches is growing rapidly in Africa, Asia and South America, and many have adopted a freer, “Spirit-led” style of worship.
In the United States, surveys of religious attitudes show that there is less loyalty to particular institutions and more interest in finding ways to express spiritual desires. This rings true with our experience at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, where many parishioners grew up in other branches of the Christian church but found their way to our parish as they looked for a welcoming community of faith where they could seek God in a rich tradition of worship, but also ask questions without fear of being regarded as out of bounds.
By Christine Whittaker/Local columnist
Posted Jul 02, 2010 @ 05:27 PM
(Christine Whittaker is the priest at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Holliston.)
Copyright 2010 Holliston TAB. Some rights reserved
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS ARTICLE?
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR CHURCH EXPERIENCE MIGHT LOOK LIKE IN THIS 21st CENTURY?