Last month I was in Port aux Basques to finalize a memorial service for my late wife. With the help of an excellent rector at St. James Anglican Church, a Christian service was held at graveside and a celebration of life was held at the church’s parish hall. Together it all made for a respectful and final tribute to a beloved wife and mother, including those many other relatives and friends who celebrated a life well lived. The choice of a church for this occasion was easy given the family’s history in Port aux Basques.
The church as an institution is often much maligned as its history is part of the human condition, which sadly includes evidence of the darker side of humanity no matter how much the Christian theology speaks otherwise. This inherent conflict between what the Bible teaches and how Christian life is lived makes things problematic for believers and non-believers.
Yet despite declining membership across many churches, the institution soldiers on. The overarching Christian message, when distilled to its core elements, is universal and powerful to its members. So it was that when I reached out to bring closure to a family event, I was warmly received.
Living away from Port aux Basques made little difference to my ability to communicate and arrange the details for the service. The women of the church stepped up graciously and generously to provide a reception for those who attended.
I and all family members could not have been more pleased with how things were handled. This experience was not a singular event, as every day churches, as is their calling, offer comfort and relief to many who seek them out.
It was recently reported that Canada has more than 20,000 religious congregations. Using a sophisticated model that measures the value of these congregations, it is estimated that the work of these churches in terms of the benefit to society can be in the order of $18.2 billion.
Church congregations provide a wide range of contributions to our social and collective good, including space for recreation and education, community celebrations, individual counseling, housing, food banks, and refugee settlement, just to name a few. Churches pay salaries and procure all manner of goods and services from local businesses.
There is lots to be said about faith groups and how the decline in church membership may be a part of the transition to a more secular society where the church influence is much less. Notwithstanding this, there is evidence that younger generations are seeking a spiritual experience not entirely dissimilar from previous generations.
A movement described as Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) has emerged where people seek out their own spiritual expression separate from the institutional church as we have come to know it. This conversation can take things in all kinds of directions and may be a subject for another time.
Suffice it to say my family was well served by a local church and I am most grateful for it.