Lonely in Dakota

A celebration of ministry in the waning places
Baltimore, our declining but still 12th-largest city, has a larger population than the entire state of North Dakota, which has 634,366 people. The state’s Divide County takes up a lot of space on the map, but its population declined from 9,636 in 1930 to 2,208 (down 77 percent) today. You could fit those people into any urban block.

That change has to do with growth, prosperity and success. You can make the front page if you entertain and attract young urbanites to churches—and why not?—but it’s harder to summon attention to chaplaincies among seniors in their dwindling years, when they need spiritual counsel most. You can get the business section to write of the boom among the newly planted congregations in exurbia, but who pays attention to those who stick around and pour imagination and faith and hope into small congregations that have been buffeted by neighborhood changes?


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