There have been several studies and stories and statistical reports recently on the ongoing decline of Christianity as an organized religion in the U.S.:
At Our Sunday Visitor has a report on a new CARA survey of Catholics: “Young people are leaving the faith. Here’s why.” Multiple national surveys indicate that only about two-thirds or fewer millennials (those born in 1982 or later) who were raised Catholic remain Catholic as adults. Many youths and young adults who have left the Church point to their belief that there is a disconnect between science and religion
From Pew Research Center: “Choosing a New Church or House of Worship.” Quality of sermons, welcoming leaders and the style of worship services tend to be the key factors in why Americans overall choose the congregations they do, but for Catholics, nothing is more important than location. Fully three-quarters of Catholics who have looked for a new church (76%) say location was an important factor in their choice of parish, reflecting the geographically based system by which Catholics typically associate with a local church.
The Atlantic has this article on the Pew study: “It’s Hard to Go to Church.” A new survey suggests the logistics of going to services can be the biggest barrier to participation—and Americans’ faith in religious institutions is declining.
From Pittsburgh: “‘We need to make our worship better,’ Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik says.” The number of active Catholics within the Pittsburgh diocese has declined from 914,000 in 1980 to 632,000 in 2015. Since 2000, weekly Mass attendance has dropped by 40 percent, and K-8 Catholic school enrollment fell by 50 percent. The number of active priests plummeted from 338 to 225.
All such surveys and studies point in the same direction: Christendom is dying. To be sure, it has been for several decades now. (Or several centuries, some would say.) “Christian” is less and less the default for the typical member of U.S. society. Those who engage in organized religion will increasingly have to make an intentional decision to do so. Or, if the vestiges of early cultural forces in some places continue to carry some people along, at the very least they will come to realize that their belief and practice makes them part of a minority.
This megatrend raises all sorts of questions for those of us involved in liturgical ministry and in the academic study of liturgy, but for today I’ll ask just one: What is the best attitude to take in the face of a shrinking church? How does one keep a hopeful attitude? How does one avoid becoming demoralized? How does one remain open to new possibilities in a rapidly changing church and world?