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Once in a while: understanding occasional churchgoers for mission David Walker Bishop of Dudley Glyndŵr University.

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Presentation on theme: "Once in a while: understanding occasional churchgoers for mission David Walker Bishop of Dudley Glyndŵr University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Once in a while: understanding occasional churchgoers for mission David Walker Bishop of Dudley Glyndŵr University

2 A conceptual model Reflecting on the rural context Belonging without believing? – Affiliation, belief and practice A fourfold model of belonging – Activities – Events – People – Places

3 The 2007 Harvest sample 1454 adults from 27 C of E churches in Worcester Diocese 326 claimed to attend church less than monthly 775 claimed to attend nearly every week The occasional churchgoers can be looked at on their own and then contrasted with the frequent church attending group Occasional churchgoers were younger than frequent – 30% between 20 and 49 as opposed to 14% – 20% aged 70 or over as opposed to 35% No significant gender difference

4 Harvest results 1 The occasional churchgoer at Harvest: is pluralist as regards world faiths does not treat the bible as historically accurate regards church attendance as an optional extra continues to believe in God and Jesus Christ chooses to self-identify as Christian is not seeking more modern or interactive styles of worship than appeal to regular churchgoers is not attracted by a vague notion of spirituality.

5 How occasional churchgoers belong Belonging with people – Congregational belonging – Pastoral support – Personal intimacy Belonging with place Belonging in the community – Involvement in other groups – Links between congregation and other groups

6 The five Marks of Mission To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom To teach, baptize and nurture new believers To respond to human need by loving service To seek to transform unjust structures of society To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain the life of the earth

7 Mission with occasional churchgoers 1 Pastoral Care (to respond to human need by loving service) – The vicar is still visible! – Informal pastoral care has some reach – Some occasional churchgoers may have the links to help provide pastoral care

8 Mission with occasional churchgoers 2 Engaging with society and world to seek to transform unjust structures of society to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain the life of the earth – include in church-based or church-managed social, environmental and ethical concerns. – A preference for activity assists regular churchgoers to provide the infrastructure to sustain local organisations so that occasional churchgoers, who are more predisposed to one off engagement or require a strong lead from people, can make their own contribution as agents of this mission work – The value of event based campaigns and efforts

9 Mission with occasional churchgoers 3 Evangelism and nurture to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to teach, baptize and nurture new believers – the value of personal relationships – how buildings are presented and interpreted will have a significant role to play – The outcome of evangelism and nurture may not be Sunday attendance – the importance of diversity in how Christian faith is lived out and expressed

10 Cathedral Studies Cathedrals as a “success phenomenon” – Average 34% growth in congregations over ten years Three areas of study – Cathedral visitors (see Tania ap Sion for example) – Cathedral congregations (see Emyr Williams for example) – Attendees at cathedral events (my area of interest) Why study cathedral events? – Large numbers of occasional churchgoers – A dimension of the Walker model of belonging – Expectation of a sample with a wide demographic range

11 The Cathedral Christmas sample 460 out of 1151 attend church less than 6 times a year 30% of occasional churchgoers were below the age of 40, 29% were aged 60 and above 44% of occasional churchgoers were men 81% were baptised, 42% confirmed 59% go to church less often nowadays 8% on an electoral roll

12 Christmas Carol findings Engaging with story as gateway to mystery not as doctrine A high expectation of encounter with God Strongly pluralist Morality matters above belief Supportive of public religion Low private piety No practice of reading scripture

13 A different quantitative method Analysis of whole sample – what does a congregation with many occasional churchgoers look like? Using correlations and regression, including frequency of attendance as a variable Using a construct – religious orientation from the field of Psychology of Religion

14 Religious Orientation - Intrinsic Persons with this (Intrinsic) orientation find their master motive in religion. Other needs, strong as they may be, are regarded as of less ultimate significance, and they are, so far as possible, brought into harmony with the religious beliefs and prescriptions. Having embraced a creed the individual endeavours to internalize it and follow it fully. It is in this sense that he lives his religion. (Allport and Ross 1967)

15 Religious Orientation - Extrinsic Persons with this (Extrinsic ) orientation are disposed to use religion for their own ends. The term is borrowed from axiology, to designate an interest that is held because it serves other, more ultimate interests. Extrinsic values are always instrumental and utilitarian. Persons with this orientation may find religion useful in a variety of ways - to provide security and solace, sociability and distraction, status and self-justification. The embraced creed is lightly held or else selectively shaped to fit more primary needs. In theological terms the extrinsic type turns to God, but without turning away from self. (Allport and Ross 1967)

16 Religious Orientation - Quest An individual who approaches religion in this way recognises that he or she does not know, and probably never will know, the final truth about such matters. But still the questions are deemed important and however tentative and subject to change, answers are sought. There may not be a clear belief in a transcendent reality, but there is a transcendent, religious dimension to the individual's life. Batson and Ventis (1982)

17 Religious orientation and churchgoing Scales work well with a group containing many occasional churchgoers Associations between religious orientation and churchgoing frequency – Strong positive correlation with intrinsic (.66) – Significant positive correlation with quest (.26) – No association with extrinsic

18 Constructing a measure for Traditional Christmas beliefs Statement ryes % I believe that shepherds visited Jesus’ birthplace.8764 I believe that wise men visited the infant Jesus.8764 I believe that Jesus was born in a stable.8961 I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin mother.8850 I believe that the bible predicted Jesus’ birth.9063 * I don’t believe the Christmas story literally.9135 Cronbach’s Alpha =.90 * indicates the responses to this statement are reverse coded; figure is for those who disagreed. yes% = the percentage who agreed or agreed strongly with the statement r = item rest of test correlation

19 Correlations of the new measure VariableTrad I Q E attage sex age att Extrinsic Quest Intrinsic.58 bold text = p<.001

20 Path model for regression

21 Religious orientation and prejudice Attempts to answer the question as to why religious people show more prejudice Association of intrinsic religiosity with lower levels of prejudice Distinction between proscribed and non-proscribed prejudices Homosexuality as a non-proscribed prejudice with positive associations with intrinsic religiosity This disappears after controlling for fundamentalist beliefs No previous work studying quest orientation

22 Attitudes towards homosexuality disagreedisagreenot sureagreeagree strongly Gay marriage Gay bishops N = 381 Gay marriage = “Homosexual couples should be allowed to marry” Gay bishops = “It should be possible for a gay man to be made a bishop” Correlations with church attendance: Gay marriage = -.28; Gay bishops = -.21

23 Discussion on homonegativity Women show lower levels of homonegativity than men Younger people show lower levels of homonegativity than older ones Attitudes towards gay marriage are less positive than towards gay bishops – the civil partnership factor? Intrinsic religiosity is associated with higher levels of homonegativity as expected. Quest religiosity is associated with lower levels of homonegativity Does the proscribed/non-proscribed distinction not work for Quest orientation? Does Quest orientation capture the inclusive and affirmative element in Christian faith?

24 Conclusions Occasional churchgoers are different, not just a bit less committed They and their real faith need and deserve to be understood as part of our engagement with them Churches that are led by one dominant orientation may not understand the needs of others Occasional churchgoers are collaborators in mission not just its recipients Events matter in their own right Quest orientation may open up new understanding of those who don’t fit the dominant model


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