When a lady from Britain told me about how church attendance by young people was falling in England, I remarked that incentives such as soup kitchens might be started in order to increase attendance. Little did I know that things would soon become so bad that Churches would be used for activities other worship. A recent article appearing in the Hindustan Times on the second of April, 2014, titled, ‘Supermarkets and pubs: Britain’s churches reborn’ literally raised my hackles especially as it described how some of the Churches are being used for purposes other than worship-a sorry state of affairs, indeed! Being a congregant member of The Church of North India, a close follower of the Church of England, I was even more astonished to learn that ‘At one church, the only thing being worshipped is beer-at another, gleaming cars are on sale.’ One cannot help wonder whether the commodification of religion as observed in most developing countries, even mine would not after all have been better than the conversion of sacred places of worship into Pubs and Automotive Sales Showrooms. And yes, there was this another description of innovative use of these Churches and these included the inclusion of slot machines in place of pews! Now whether these slot machines might as well be machines that dispense chocolates or for that effect, cash as prize money to winning visitors would need to be verified.
What I can see is a gradual weaning away from the very teachings of the scriptures, the habit of going to Church on Sundays to attend Mass, and the eagerness to listen to a good Sermon by an accomplished speaker. One might perhaps call this a process of sterilisation, a movement away from a more institutionalised form of spirituality to other more popular interests better suited to a fast paced life in a modern metropolis. Where Commercialisation, Commodification, Propaganda Techniques, and the Equated Monthly Instalment play a more important role in our lives today, why would going to Church matter, and why would converting a church building matter to us? In times when we are becoming more and more restless and cannot wait for the Almighty Lord to grant us His blessings, where Instant Gratification is the result of the expectation of being given the goods immediately after the payment, it is but natural for many of us to stop going to Church on Sundays. After all what does one do when prayers do not yield immediate results? The Book of Job from the Old Testament teaches us about the importance of being patient and having a very strong faith in God in spite of being in the centre of a maelstrom of tribulations and sufferings-teachings that go against the concept of Instant Gratification or the Instant Coffee attitude! Well, I guess, commercialisation has finally discarded Spiritualism and Religion for better and more lucrative fields!
When this lady from Britain told me about how only the middle aged and the elderly were the only people who went to Church on Sundays, it somehow connected to the idea that the elderly were perhaps better insulated from the Instant Gratification Syndrome, and perhaps less sensitive to Propaganda Techniques employed by Business Houses and Corporates! A dying lot, the elderly and the middle aged members of the congregations of many churches are fighting a losing battle to save the sanctity of their Churches, and the observation of Mass on Sabbath Day. It is clear, somehow that what we see from the conversion of Churches from places of worship into places of commercial activity is the emergence of a new religion based on a rather commercial and commoditised view of the whole world. This is a rather disturbing tendency which is steadily leading to a desensitized and sterile view of life as a whole. We are moving towards a world order where there is no room for Spirituality because we have no time for it. Anyway, who wants to waste a Sunday going to Church and worshipping The Almighty Lord when one can sleep on after a Saturday Night of partying, or for that effect, catching up with clients or making cold calls for a possible client?
In times when Pubbing and Gambling are the new religions, it is not surprising that more and more Churches are becoming derelict with reduced attendance and corresponding rising costs of maintenance. With costs of real estate shooting up, one can imagine how tempted the roving eyes of estate agents must be when they see a perfect structure to turn into a commercial establishment, a Mall, a Pub, or a training centre! It makes perfect sense, therefore for congregations in the present times to think less about building huge structures as churches that will become derelict in the coming times and instead plan for better outreach programmes, social services, and other programmes meant for the spiritual upliftment and enlightenment of the young and the old. A true church is not limited to the walls of the structure, the true Church is made up of the members of the Congregation- the Congregation itself is the Church! It is high time we spent more time and resources in saving the Church, not by building more buildings but by improving fellowship, and the quality of the service. The calling of a leader of the community, the Presbyter or the Priest cannot simply be linked with any other profession where what you make in a month matters more than the number of souls you save! It is high time we turned our Churches into living, thriving houses of worship, and not just exclusive Country-Club gatherings for the hoity-toity!
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