The Nuns and the Nones
Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter Article for August, 2013
Nuns played a large role in the religious life of my hometown when I was growing up. St. Croix Catholic School is owned and operated by the people of the Church of St. Michael, and was the home school for many of my good friends. Contrary to the stereotypes of the day, my friends spoke fondly of the Nuns who had a strong presence in that school, and cared very deeply for their charges.
Today the church is spending more time thinking about “Nones” than “Nuns.” The 2012 American Values Survey (see link, below) has identified that when asked about their religious affiliation, 19% of the American population chose “none.” Almost one-fourth of these are “unattached believers.” Over one-third are “self-identified atheists and agnostics.” Almost forty percent are simply “unaffiliated secular Americans.”
We live in a different world than the one many of us experienced as children. In my hometown, Sunday mornings were a time when most families put on their Sunday best, piled into the family car, and made their way to church for worship and Sunday school. These days that is far less common – in fact, Sunday morning rituals in most American homes now have nothing to do with church.
There is good news and bad news in this reality. On the one hand, those who become involved in faith communities are not doing so simply because that has been their family’s tradition for generations. They are becoming involved because their faith is important to them, and their involvement with a congregation plays a significant role in their lives. They are choosing to live differently than the majority of their neighbors do.
On the other hand, congregations will not stay strong and healthy simply because they develop competencies in the kinds of programs and activities typically associated with churches in North America. Thoughtful congregational leaders will both help their members strengthen their own commitment to faith and ministry, and strive to connect with “nones” in their community who may have an interest in the deeper aspects of life, but have not yet have come upon a compelling reason to relate to a local church.
What questions are “nones” in our neighborhood asking about faith and God? What awareness do they have of spiritual realities? What do their quests for meaning and purpose in life share with ours? How might we discover common areas of interest, and pursue them together? How can we help them discover that they are welcome among us? What adjustments do we need to make in the way we gather, that could help them more easily become part of us? These are not easy questions, but they are essential questions. Have you discovered any helpful answers to them? I’d love to hear what you have learned!
God’s peace to you all,
“’Nones’ on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation,” www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx, (accessed July 17, 2013).