April 4 issue of the Century offers Ruth Burrows's witness to her life as a
contemplative Carmelite; it also includes an homage to a community
of students shaped by their experience with Trappist monks, which in turn shaped Faith Matters writer Stephanie Paulsell in her
faith and thinking.
Yet Carmelite, Benedictine, Trappist and other
monastic communities find themselves in a precarious place these days, with many
of them closed or closing. Must we lose these Catholic (and Protestant) communities before we
realize that they are a profound presence
to those of us out wandering in the world?
Over ten years ago Andrew Walls, the renowned historian and mission theologian, with whom I was studying at Princeton Theological Seminary, mentioned that one of his students had begun researching African immigrant churches in New York City. The student, according to Walls, was literally walking block by block in the city looking for these churches, of which very little was known at the time.
I know some people who refuse to sit on church committees
because they think it's a waste of time. I've known some church committees that
prove them correct. In one case, the chair has become something of an
establishment. She's rather undisciplined, drags meetings out needlessly and
talks excessively herself.
What do young people look for in church? In research done in 250 congregations among people ages 15–29, respondents repeatedly said they were looking for congregations that were “welcoming, accepting, belonging, authentic, hospitable, and caring.” The researchers began to call this set of concerns the “warmth cluster.” Worship bands and ministry programs are not a priority, nor is busyness. Even “niceness” doesn’t work with young people. What they apparently seek at church is a sense of family, which calls for intergenerational relationships (Washington Post, September 6).