I’m in Regina, Saskatchewan with family for the holidays. Someone said “Let’s go to a Christmas Eve carol service” and five of us did that. We went to Lakeview United, where “United” signifies the United Church of Canada, the biggest Protestant denomination up here. It was uplifting and pleasant and sort of sad. Disclosure: I’m not Christian at all; but still.
As you can see, the congregation (for the 8PM December 24th service) was sparse and elderly. The statistics are remorseless: Christianity is in decline. The proportion of Canadians who attend church weekly is not far from 10%.
This surprises me, if only because the Church’s tools are still very strong. The voices raised in Christmas hymns were breathtaking (the crowd, while small, sang well), the Gospel’s words telling the Christmas story were beautiful, and Sue Breisch, the Minister, was eloquent and welcoming, broadcasting love and empathy. Here are some of her sermons.
The building is really fine in a Sixties kind of way, its main hall comfortable, with big comfy rocking chairs and coffee tables at the back.
Maybe it’s as simple as this: Even if you don’t actively disbelieve (as I do) the Christian narrative, religion has lost its urgency, and as lives are increasingly filled by the Net and the pressures of late capitalism, there are ways to fill Sunday mornings that feel more important.
Having said that, I enjoyed the words and music intensely — lack of faith didn’t get in the way — and recommend doing this sort of thing from time to time. I also think it might be good for you. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and you’ll end up saving your soul from eternal torment.