Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill in our Survey Questionnaire! We had 128 responses over two Sundays. The results confirmed a lot of what we already suspected: we are a Parish made up of people who seek a traditional church environment with a sacramental flavour; 70% of parishioners are over 40 years old; the 19-26 age group is the smallest with 3% and the 41-55 age group is the biggest with 36%.
Most parishioners joined Corpus Christi because we are the nearest Anglican Church to where they live, and most stay because of the sense of belonging and family that they experience. Our intra-cultural harmony, along with the high standard of sermons and the rector’s personality were also mentioned. Those who serve do so mainly as a way to give back to the community for what they receive in terms of care, belonging and meaningful worship.
A number of issues of concern were raised, most notably a need to stimulate the participation of young adults and encourage youth attendance. Concern was expressed about our singing (dreary!) and a need articulated for the inclusion of African hymns/songs. A number of respondents (including, interestingly, one of our 13-18 year-olds) bemoaned the disruption caused by late-comers, and some find the chatter before worship difficult to accept. Newer members expressed a need to be more fully welcomed, including a desire for a welcome visit from the clergy.
Encouraging Youth & the Future
The survey highlighted that the majority of parishioners hold to a worldview that cherishes transcendent truth and principle. This means the predominant outlook at Corpus Christi understands God as the eternal rewarder of those who stay true to their calling, and presses for a church committed to changeless truth. This outlook requires sermons that underscore accountability, and worship that is reverent, orderly, and predictable. We seek leaders of unquestioned integrity, who keep things under control and on the right path.
The majority of young people today don’t hold to this outlook, preferring to see God either as a divine mentor who calls us to our full potential, and thus seek a church that dreams and acts boldly; or they see God as the healer of an injured world and seek a church that builds healthy, close-knit relationships. They are thus drawn to either the mega-church where worship has a distinctively “contemporary” feel, or to congregations where worship has an intimate “family” feel.
Our emphasis on worship that is reverent, orderly and predictable is largely at odds with the intimacy younger people seek. As adults, we are often uncomfortable with younger people’s desire to chatter during the silences, hug and catch up during the “peace”, sing songs that appear repetitive and theologically “light”, and hold small group interactions in place of a sermon. This explains why the Teens prefer to sit in the cold under the Car-port in interactive conversation with Wonder Mutanha rather than in the warmth of the Church in a predictable and largely non-interactive environment.
It is of course easy to generalise, and we need to note that at least 17% of respondents (in the 26-70+ age group) are comfortable with the younger perspective, and are probably drawn to Corpus Christi because we manage to sustain a good sense of belonging and family. 53% of respondents (also in the same age group) are deeply uncomfortable with it. It is this deep discomfort of the majority of adults with the outlook of our youth that makes it very difficult to encourage youth attendance and young adult participation. The “generation gap” is very wide.
The challenge for the Parish leadership is to continue to meet the needs of the Parish majority, while opening up opportunities for both young people and the minority of adults whose worship and faith needs differ with the general direction that Corpus Christi is travelling. It is to find balance between the expectations of the present and the demands of the future.
This challenge is not one we face alone. It is the challenge that most Anglican and other traditional Churches face. To be an alive and growing church in the future generations we need to find the courage to step beyond the boundaries of what we know and understand, and venture into the realm of the unknown. Our great-grandchildren will stand testimony to our courage or our fear.