There we sat in church this morning, enjoying a perfectly lovely celebration of the Epiphany (and a fine sermon by a dear friend), when the Devil got his hooks into us again.
"Why," he asked, "does such a lovely little parish on a main street in an urban area not have more worshipers?" Like many of you, we spend a lot of time on questions like this. We have a number of pet theories, of which our personal favorite involves church bulletins -- those little explosions of loose paper that slide into your lap when you sit down, and which you then have to re-organize by separating, folding, inserting between the pages of a hymnal, and balancing upon your folded coat.
Church bulletins are, by and large, horrible things and enormous obstacles to the worship of God.
But sometimes it isn't as complicated as the Devil wants us to believe. During the Hymn of the Day, Kindergartener Anonymous announced that he needed a drink of water, and we were assigned to accompany him down to the kitchen.
As we passed through the undercroft, we saw a table with perhaps twelve Sunday School students and two teachers. While we thoroughly disapprove of holding classes during worship, we realize that for many parishes this heinous custom has become non-negotiable. So no surprise there.
The surprise came when we turned toward the kitchen, and saw a cluster of perhaps ten teen-agers, all of post-confirmation age, standing around by the Christmas tree, having some sort of discussion. What were they doing? We don't know, and we don't really care. They were not worshiping.
In fact, although we had seen most of them serving as acolytes on Christmas Eve, we had not otherwise -- in several months or regular attendance -- seen them in worship.
Why don't young adults come to worship as often as we might like? Perhaps it is because, from the time they are small children, we encourage them to get up on Sunday morning, get dressed, be dragged over to the church building by earnest and hopeful parents -- and then stay the hell out of the nave. And we, as a church, are just happy to have them somewhere on the property.
This is fine, really, if you want Christianity to die in your own lifetime. But if you'd like to pass the traditions on to a future generation, then you really have no choice but to pass them on. Which starts, at a minimum, by telling your kids to spend an hour or so singing hymns and listening to the Bible.