“Do this and they will come.”
I have wanted to address the lack of church attendance for a couple of years now. The Aug. 30 issue of The Record, with its Letter to the Editor by Father Jerry Timmel, and Father Ron Knott’s “An Encouraging Word” column have given me just enough boost to finally get on my keyboard.
In Father Timmel’s Letter to the Editor, he wrote “I personally see the failure of our Catholic schools to be ‘the arms of God’ with so few children attending Mass with their parents.” He notes that he is retired, and also notes sadly that he has no idea how to improve church attendance.
Father Ron Knott writes in his Aug. 30 column “How to bring people back to church,” that people are leaving because they are looking for Jesus. And he writes that spiritual leaders need to focus more on Christ and less on the organization. Father Knott quotes Pope Paul VI’s decree on the ministry and life of priests by reiterating that perhaps fewer people would leave if we were more skilled at “striking the spark of faith in the hearts of unbelievers and feeding the hearts of the faithful.”
I firmly believe that if we could experience outstanding sermons and inspirational music and songs “they will come.”
I don’t think this should be laid at the feet of priests; they have too much to do as it is. Although I have been fortunate to have very talented priests preaching at my church, I’ll bet they would appreciate some help. Here’s my idea:
The archdiocese could form a talented committee to prepare a month’s worth of inspirational and Bible-based sermons. The committee would then send the homilies to all priests and deacons who, in turn, could adapt them to their own styles and personalities.
As for music, I think the individual parishes need to create a “music fund” and spend a good bit of money attracting and keeping the best talented singers and choirs possible. If the parishes can’t afford to do this, perhaps the archdiocese could support such a program with funds until potential growth would cover the costs. This is not to say anything against those dedicated to music ministry in the past — they deserve our thanks, each and every one. However, this is not about individuals — it’s about growing attendance and faith through the use of music.
If songs inspire us (not necessarily entertain us) this will have a profound effect on what we will give back. It will help us encourage evangelizing efforts beyond our dreams. With unfamiliar songs, why not let the cantor and/or choir perform these alone? On the songs we are all familiar with, we can all join in. If you don’t think this has merit, stand in the back of church, listen and compare participation of #421 and #460 with “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art.” I could sing those every week.
If others feel all this is too much of an undertaking for all parishes, then perhaps we could just try these ideas at just a few.
Edward “Eddie” King is a member of Immaculate Conception Church in La Grange, Ky.