Report from Louisiana: Holy Week

Posted: April 11, 2022 by Pat Austin in Uncategorized
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Palm Sunday

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As Christians around the world prepare for Holy Week, I’ve been thinking a lot about church attendance. Christmas and Easter are the two days of the year that you can well assume that the pews will be filled. Even the days leading up to those services start to see a slight uptick in attendance; yesterday we had our Palm Sunday service and had perhaps 25% more people in church than in past weeks.

We have a new Rector at our church which is also helping the attendance numbers; he’s been onsite for about five weeks, and people are showing up to see what the buzz is about. Whether or not they will continue to show is the question.

Church attendance across denominations is low. In March 2021 there was a Gallup poll conducted on this:

The proportion of Americans who consider themselves members of a church, synagogue or mosque has dropped below 50 percent, according to a poll from Gallup released Monday. It is the first time that has happened since Gallup first asked the question in 1937, when church membership was 73 percent.

That’s both sad and scary to me.

I’ve not always been the most faithful in attendance, but it seems the older I get, the more I realize how important it is, and how meaningful the liturgy is to me. We attend the Episcopal church that my parents took us to when I was a kid, so I have strong sentimental attachments and memories there. It felt rather like coming home when my husband and I started going back to church on Sunday.

Religious services are simply not a priority for so many these days. In our congregation our average age is easily in the 60s-70s range. We have some young families, but not in overwhelming numbers, and those that are actually members don’t attend because they have soccer games or softball tournaments for their kids, or some other such activity that is always more important.

I’m not judging anyone, but I do wonder why events like that are scheduled for Sunday morning? I don’t recall that always being the case.

And with most things, politics causes a divide in religious congregations sometimes. Congregations wrestle with issues like sexual orientation and abortion, and try to determine where as a congregation we stand on these things? Are we a big umbrella welcoming all? Why is our Rector teaching a book written by a gay priest? (gasp!). Do we allow gay marriage or not? When does life begin? When does it end? How does it end? Does it end?

So many issues can bog us down. Faith is such a personal thing but also something we find strengthens in fellowship with others.

It seems to me in an ever more complex and confusing world, the only place I find peace and stillness is in the church. My head clears, my heart listens, and I find hope and clarity. It is my hope that as Holy Week and Easter begins to fill the pews, if only for a short time, at least a few people will also find this same peace and will continue to come back.

It sure couldn’t hurt anything. With the state of society these days, it sure could not hurt.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

  1. Pod Hamp says:

    Thanks for your post. Your experience certainly mirrors my experience. Although a different denomination (Methodist) and a different location (one of those square shaped states out west) the story is nearly the same. It provides comfort and meaning to our lives, so my wife and I continue to faithfully serve. I tell folks that we will be here as long as God wants us here.