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Hallo again to all.

We have all seen the reports, for years and years, that 'mainstream' church attendance is declining. We are a mainstream denomination. And yes, all around the Anglican world, on average, fewer people are attending Anglican churches than a generation ago.

This observation has always felt too impersonal. Churchgoers reduced to numbers. 'We once had an ASA* of 250 but last year our ASA was 113.' Our own church does not have average attenders. It has us. Laurie and Bob and Scott and Alice and Dick and Carolyn and Shen and Mariella and all of the rest of us. If Bob stops attending and nothing else changes, next year we will report an ASA of 112. Reduced attendance indicates that specific people who once attended no longer do.

Recently we've started paying attention to who, specifically, isn't there any more. At our own church, that's relatively easy. When we visit another church (which we do a lot) we must either generalise based on demographics or ask around at coffee hour. This past Christmas season, we came to a realisation that perhaps should have been obvious years ago. So many of the adult children raised in the church have not bothered to find their own church when they fledge and leave home. So many seem content to think of their parents' parish, which they might visit once or twice a year, to be 'their' parish. On their own, in their own lives, they ignore church and do something else on Sunday mornings. Church attendance seems to be associated in their minds with their family of origin more than their own lives and family.

This is, of course, an informally observed trend and not a rigid fact. We know many families whose absent adult children have continued as active churchgoers somewhere else, perhaps moving to another denomination. And we have met young adults who have become faithful churchgoers even though their parents weren't. But we know of many more who, when leaving home to build their own lives, built lives that didn't include church.

Last year near Christmastide we went to a church several time zones away from home, and remember hearing at coffee hour (perhaps eavesdropping) a young man holding a baby, talking to a small semi-circle of people his own age about the quaint artefacts of his parents' life that he had of course not included in his own. 'My parents read a paper newspaper, have a land line phone, listen to music on CDs, write checks at stores, and take checks into banks to deposit them. They attend church on Sunday. They eat mayonnaise and meat loaf, and it takes them a week to answer a text message. My father keeps stamps and envelopes in a desk drawer.'

We all know that printed newspapers, land line phones, CDs, and paper checks will in a generation have gone the way of high-button shoes. We wonder whether mayonnaise and meat loaf will make a comeback or join malted milk and jello salads in the history of food. And we pray that Christian corporate worship guided by scripture, tradition, and reason will always be part of chosen lifestyles.

See you next week.

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6 January 2019

*Average Sunday Attendance

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