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This week, as in most Easter weeks, I find myself thinking about the future of faith. I’m thinking about pastor friends who are busy planning Holy Week services. And I’m thinking of the people they’ll preach to, many of whom have not been to church in months.
Easter, like Christmas, acts as a sort of magnet pulling lapsed Christians back to church. Some may return on their own terms in hopes of hearing familiar Easter songs and seeing the special decorations. Many others, including many young adults who are home for the holiday, will be guilted into going by well-meaning loved ones.
A few years ago, I asked pastors how the unique makeup of the Easter crowd affects their preparation for worship. I wondered if they spend a little extra time jazzing up their sermon. Or if they and other service leaders share an explicit goal of convincing Easter visitors to eventually join their church.
I was surprised to hear that few pastors think of Easter the same way that I do: as a chance to make a killer sales pitch on behalf of your congregation. Instead, faith leaders generally concern themselves with holier tasks, like helping everyone understand the joy of the Easter story and serving the spiritual needs of regular attendees.
“I’ve come to understand that my place in this world is with these 15 or 20 people,” Ryan Burge, a religion scholar who also leads a small church in Illinois, told me in 2019. “They need a pastor who knows them, cares about them, loves them and gives them the honor and glory they deserve.”
Less frequent church attenders need that kind of care and love, too, especially amid a pandemic that is wreaking havoc on people’s mental health. On Easter this Sunday, they’ll be well-served by pastors focused on doing their regular work, not making a sales pitch.
Fresh off the press
Trying to raise successful kids? Experts say you shouldn’t forget about faith
Term of the week: The dones
When I first started reporting on religion, “nones” was a major buzzword on the faith beat. That clever label — which must not be confused with nuns from the Catholic tradition — refers to people who describe themselves as “none of the above” on survey questions about their religious tradition. In other words, the nones are religiously unaffiliated.
Increasingly, I’m seeing stories about people who’ve gone a step beyond “none of the above.” They’re not just a none, they’re done with faith completely (at least at this point in their lives.)
Recent research has shown that a growing group of nones are aptly described as dones since they show no interest in rejoining a religious tradition. “For a variety of reasons, churches do not enjoy the same status and public confidence they once had,” the Survey Center on American Life reported last month.
What I’m reading ...
If you’re interested in hearing young people describe their relationship with religion in their own words, check out this recent New York Times column that aggregated stories about childhood experiences in church.
Congregation Beth Israel, the site of a terrifying hostage situation earlier this year, was reconsecrated on Friday as the synagogue’s members prepared to return to their regular worship routines. The Dallas Morning News met with community leaders ahead of the momentous occasion.
On a related note, I re-read my own story about the Pray Safe Act from last summer after learning that the Senate just passed the measure, which aims to connect houses of worship across the country with security-related resources.
Here’s a stunning dispatch from Ukraine from The Associated Press about how churches in the country are faring in the final days before Easter.
Odds and ends
Last week, the Senate voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. She will be the first Black woman to serve as a justice when she takes the bench this fall.
Here are some notable stories that the Deseret News published about Jackson’s confirmation battle over the past few weeks:
- Biden has picked his Supreme Court nominee. What happens next?
- Why BYU’s former general counsel introduced Ketanji Brown Jackson at her confirmation hearing
- ‘How faithful would you say you are?’ and other faith-related questions Ketanji Brown Jackson has faced
- Video: Mitt Romney stands and applauds Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic confirmation
- Ketanji Brown Jackson’s path to the highest court in the land