Connection. Caring. Wholeness.

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Connection. Caring. Wholeness.

The vast majority of today’s young people 18-22 are leaving church as soon as they move out of their parent’s homes, and according to Christian Smith, those who stay are practicing an aberrant form of Christianity (therapeutic moralistic deism.)

Those who leave do so because they feel they never connected with God there; their tribal connections are stronger outside the church than in it; and the issues that matter to them aren’t talked about at church.

Among the interesting sidebar stories during the Pope’s visit, one of them was about immigrant Latino’s leaving Catholicism in favor of Pentecostalism..

It occurred to me that what they are finding there is what young people say they are not finding in their evangelical churches (often mega-churches).

1) They say they found a connection with God and each other.

“Many have turned to Pentecostalism, a form of evangelical Christianity that stresses a personal, even visceral, connection with God.”

“To Latinos, the church is a place for socializing,” Father Elizondo Rev. Virgil Elizondo, a professor of pastoral and Hispanic religions at the University of Notre Dame said. “Even people with the deepest of Catholic beliefs, if they’re in a foreign country and they can’t find a church where they can experience companionship, they will look elsewhere.”

2) They are finding a place that cares.

The first thing I tell the newcomers is that there are no lambs without a shepherd in our church; no one is a stranger,” said Pastor Tinouco, 62, who has a high school education and 11 churches three each in New York City, Portugal and his native Brazil; one in Switzerland; and one in Newark.
“Our mission is to welcome the immigrant and be his guide and his support,” he said. “If they need money to pay the rent, we’ll raise the money for them. If they need work, we’ll find them work. If they need someone to talk to, they can come to me.”

3) They are finding the relevance of faith in daily life.

“This church is not a place we visit once a week. This church is where we hang around and we share our problems and we celebrate our successes, like we were family.”

4) The church is where they are beginning to feel whole.

I feel whole here,” Mrs. Calazans, 42, said one recent Sunday in the Astoria sanctuary, the Portuguese Language Pentecostal Missionary Church, as she swayed to the pop-rock beat of a live gospel band.

The Latino Catholic is finding in Pentecostalism what today’s young people are not finding in evangelicalism. Oddly, some Pentecostals are also migrating to Catholicism or sometimes to a more intellectually satisfying Protestantism.

These migrations are a sign of the incompleteness of most religious experiences. Of three forms of religious expression–experiential, propositional and sacramental-Pentecostalism tends to be heavy on experience and light on proposition and the mystery of sacrament.

Because humans are a mix of mind, spirit and emotion, wholeness requires all three, and an experiential Pentecostalism is as incomplete as a propositional Protestantism..

In a lonely, fragmented, disconnected age, an experiential connection with God and each other in a caring community in daily life is not a bad place to start, but until it addresses the whole person it also cannot produce whole, fully human Christians.

I think young people and old need a church experience that is holistic, addressing our intellectual and experiential needs as well as our capacity for mystery.

That is the search and for those of us in churches, nurturing it in community it is our aim.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in April 24, 2008 by | No Comments »

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