Monday, 6 May 2013

Sundays with the family

The use of Sunday morning has changed. People are quite likely to be playing in a football team, shopping, or exercising their right of access to their estranged children, all in a way they wouldn’t have been doing a generation or more ago. So trying to do Sunday morning family worship ‘better’ (while not a bad thing in itself) may miss one of the significant reasons such services are less well attended than they were a generation ago.

That is a well trodden line of reasoning, although obviously not a systematic one since there has been quite a change in attitudes to faith and attitudes to church practice in the same period which will also be major factors.

It is something we wanted to test out locally with the questionnaire which we got people such as those bringing children for Baptism to fill in during February and March, about which I began to report at the time.

So, the first question we asked was ‘As far as you can remember, exactly where were you at 11.00 a.m. last Sunday and what were you doing?’. I’ve just got round to the detailed analysis.

Over a quarter (29% - 20 out of 69) did indeed say they were doing something which most of them might well not have been able to do on a Sunday morning a generation of more ago: working (10) or sleeping after a night-shift (2), playing organised football (4), shopping (3) and attending a dance class (1).

But almost two thirds (45 out of 69) were simply at home doing everything from lying in (three more were in bed, one with a hangover) to engaging in DIY (two people – nobody actually said he or she was washing a car). More were engaged in housework (13) than out at work elsewhere, and more were looking after children at home (8) than out at football or the shops. Six were spending time with family in other ways , five were watching television, two were skyping members of their family at a distance, another two were walking dogs, and one was in the shower.

So, yes, the changing use of Sunday is the dominant factor for a quarter - on this particular Sunday it was what kept them away from church. But housework, having time to relax, or being involved with family were the things two thirds were quietly doing rather than thinking of joining us. Two were on car journeys and two were in church.

I took the picture in Lincoln Cathedral after a study day there on Saturday.

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