Tag Archives: extinction

Lord Carey’s vision for the Church might kill it off (from the Telegraph) – By A N Wilson, 19 Nov 2013

The Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, could be presiding over a Church sliding toward extinction

The ‘vibrant’ services favoured by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, will not bring back the crowds

 

The Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, could be presiding over a Church sliding toward extinction Photo: AP
I go to a well-attended church   in London, but I have made frequent travels throughout England in the past   year (literary festivals, television work, visiting friends). On Sunday   mornings, I have gone to church. When staying with friends near Canterbury,   I have enjoyed splendid liturgy, intelligent sermons and been part of a huge   congregation.

So what do I make of Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, saying   that the Church is only one generation from extinction, its clergy gripped   by a “feeling of defeat” and its congregations worn down with “heaviness”?    Is he just suffering from peevish-old-man syndrome?

Alas, Lord Carey is right. Come away from Canterbury with me into the parishes   I have visited – in the West Country, in East Anglia, in the Midlands and   the North. I have attended at least 10 churches in the past year – all very   different in their history, but in each case I have had the same experience.   At the age of 63, I have been the youngest person present by 20 years. The   congregation has seldom numbered double figures. The C of E is a moribund   institution kept going by and for old people. They are ministered to   (perhaps I was just unlucky) by an ill-educated clergy with nil   public-speaking ability.

Lord Carey, as an evangelical, thinks that the cure for all this is to reach   out to young people with such initiatives as the Alpha Course (a basic   grounding in the faith, which began at Holy Trinity Brompton). He wants the   sort of services that such Christians consider “vibrant”.

Evangelicals like him have had some success, mainly in suburban parishes,   where congregations can be numbered in their hundreds. But these places,   which appear to buck the trend, are in catchment areas of tens of thousands   of people, none of whom would go near such an evangelical Church, with its   outreach, Toddlers’ Praise and speaking in tongues.

There are two simple reasons for this, and there is nothing anyone can say   that will make these reasons go away.

The first is sex. Traditional Christianity taught that there is no permitted   sexual act outside marriage. All but no one now – even Christians – really   believes this. What used to be called “living in sin” is absolutely normal.   Nearly all young people, gay or straight, when they reach a certain moment   in their relationship, try living together. The Churches can either back   down and say that for 2,000 years they have been talking nonsense about sex;   or they can dig in their heels. Either way, the Church is diminished.

The second reason is a much bigger thing. That is the decline of belief   itself. Most people simply cannot subscribe to the traditional creeds. No   number of Alpha courses can make people believe that God took human form of   a Virgin, or rose from the dead. They simply can’t swallow it. They see no   reason, therefore, to listen to a Church that propounds these stories and   then presumes to tell them how to behave in the bedroom.

When there was a tradition of church-going, there was more room for unbelief.   When a young priest told Archbishop Michael Ramsey that he had lost his   faith in God, Ramsey replied, after a long pause: “It doesn’t matter – it   doesn’t matter.” You can’t imagine Lord Carey saying that.

Unbelief, and the change in sexual mores, affects not only the decline in   Anglican congregations, but the entire history of the Western Church. The    “Francis effect” is said to be drawing back mass attendance in Italy. But   the Pope’s focus groups, asking what the faithful believe, will yield   similar results as they would in the Church of England – people don’t think   it is sinful to live together, they don’t think it is sinful to be gay, and   they no longer really believe in the Incarnation.

This is dire news for institutional Christianity. Yes, pockets of prayer still   exist – of course they do, in the surviving religious orders in both   Churches, in individuals and in parishes. Some people like me will always   feel their hearts restless until they rest in God. And we feast on the   riches that the Church provides. Go to church and you are not alone.   Stretching back into Platonic and Jewish pre‑Christian times, the wise of   old are there to speak to you, through liturgy, Scripture, architecture and   music.

But such habits of Common Prayer (as we still call it, some of us) are a   knack, like the enjoyment of classical music (which is also, we are told,   something that is catastrophically on the wane in Britain). Lose the knack   and it is very difficult to reclaim it.

Most decent, intelligent, middle-aged or young people I know have no sense at   all of what churches are for. The trouble is, so many of those who run the   institutions share this deficiency. Those of us whose minds are filled   (whatever we believe) with the words and patterns of the old liturgy feel   like the old man in Nineteen Eighty‑Four, O’Brien, who is one of the last   left alive who can remember the words of Oranges and Lemons.

Maybe, in “reviving” a Church along Lord Carey’s lines, we would actually   finish it off altogether. Maybe for Churches, as for people, there really   are fates worse than death.

O’Brien asked Winston (the hero of Nineteen Eighty-Four) to propose a toast –    perhaps to drink to the future. Winston instead proposes “To the past!” “    ‘The past is more important,’ agreed O’Brien gravely.” I’d drink to that.

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October 15, 2013 · 13:40

American Jewry

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THE BLOG
Three Ways to Save American Jewry From Extinction
Rabbi Shmuley BoteachOct 04, 2013
By now you’ve heard about the Pew Research poll, published this week, that concludes that American Jewry is on its way to oblivion. No need to wait for Hassan Rouhani of Iran to drop a bomb on us. We’re doing an incredibly fine job of destroying ourselves, thank you very much.

What all this shows is that what my friend mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt and I have been saying for years is unfortunately correct. Despite the untold billions that have been sunk into Jewish communal outreach for the last half century, it has barely made a dent in the rate of assimilation.

Here are three ways to give mouth-to-mouth to our dying community.

1. Stop creating a divide between the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds.

Today’s model of outreach is fatally flawed seeing as it necessarily forces a choice on non-affiliated Jews to choose between the Jewish and mainstream worlds. So, a student at University who hangs out with his non-Jewish friends is encouraged to stop going only to mainstream University events and come instead to Hillel or Chabad. I’m not knocking that. We need Jewish organizations that invite Jews in to classes, religious services, lectures, social events, and debates. But far more effective is not forcing the choice on them in the first place. Bring Judaism instead to where they are at. On campus, do colossal events that bring Jewish values, teachings, and wisdom to all students so that young men and women are not forced to choose.

Last week, in collaboration with Rabbi Yehuda Sarna of Hillel at NYU, our organization, This World: The Values Network, staged a huge event of over 1000 Jewish and non-Jewish students that had me moderating a discussion on genocide between Elie Wiesel and Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda.

In a similar manner, bring Judaism to the culture via TV shows, plays, and music that are mainstream and intended for all audiences. Some examples include the new Shlomo Carlebach-based musical ‘Soul Doctor,’ produced by Jeremy Chess, that is currently running on Broadway, the music of Matisyahu, and the TV show I hosted on TLC called ‘Shalom in the Home.’ Like the Kabbalah movement, bring Judaism and Jewish values to everybody instead of just focusing on the Jews. We are not a proselytizing faith, but that is no excuse not to make the Jewish people a light to all nations.

2. Fix the broken and boring Synagogue service.

The overwhelming number of Jews who still step into a Synagogue do so for three days of every year and then swear they will never come back. Sometimes I think we should ban secular Jews from High Holy Day services and shift their attendance instead to Simchas Torah and Purim. But since that’s not going to happen, let’s take the focus off of cantorial recital yodeling, which makes congregants into spectators, shift the teachings away from dry sermons, and focus instead on having services engage the heart and mind. Carlebach-style services that make people sing real spiritual melodies rather than listening to opera is the way to go. Rabbis putting out moral questions between each of the seven readings of the Torah on Saturday mornings is a means by which to influence congregants to apply the lessons of the Torah to their everyday lives, making Judaism relevant rather than aloof. And don’t forget a fantastic Kiddush with fine single malt whisky. Can’t afford it? Build less elaborate buildings and have a more elaborate cholent and sushi.

3. Make the Rabbinical and Jewish day school teaching professions fashionable again.

You basically become a Jewish day school teacher or a Rabbi after your fifth rejection from Harvard Business School. There is no social clout in it and you get paid in cholent beans. How do we change all this? By having AIPAC, Federation, Birthright, and other prestigious Jewish organizations respect Rabbis at their major conventions rather than having them say the blessing on the bread. How do we ensure they can make more money? Take the ten smartest Jewish hedge fund managers and have them create a fund open only to Jewish activists where there money will be managed by the smartest people in the world so that a teacher in cheder will have enough money to marry off his children without having to moonlight as a bar bouncer. The more money Rabbis and teachers make, without putting strains on the communal purse, and the more clout these professions enjoy, the more talent we will attract to those professions that are supposed to be inspiring our youth.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the winner of the London Times Preacher of the Year Award and the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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