The struggle to choose the hymns for the small rural congregation I serve is a microcosm of the challenges faced by members of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song (PCOCS) as it decides what hymns and songs to include in the next Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) hymnal and electronic resources.
A commissioner to the General Assembly (our denomination’s national
meeting that happens every two years), came back to report on what he
did. He was a bit disappointed that he was on the church growth
committee. The first day they sat down and talked about how if the
church continues to decline at the same rate, then there will be no
members left in forty years.
One of the things I most appreciate about the call stories in the Bible
is that there is no single template. When Peter, Andrew, James and John
are summoned by Jesus to leave their nets to follow him, “immediately”
they do just that (Luke 4:18-22).
From Britain to Denmark, Europe has hundreds of empty churches. The closing of a church is painful—especially in villages where the church for centuries served as a community anchor, even for unbelievers. Efforts are often made to adapt the buildings for a community service, such as a library. Because they are very expensive to maintain, empty churches are more frequently turned into some kind of commercial endeavor. The Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, still owned by the Catholic Church, has been turned into a skate park. The Netherlands has the largest number of idle church buildings. Roman Catholic leaders in Holland estimate that within a decade two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be closed, and 700 of the country’s Protestant churches will likely close over the next four years (Wall Street Journal, January 2).