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Responses to Religious 'Nones' Article

Posted: November 20, 2018

Pastor Paul Harrington responds (below) to an opinion article in the StarTribune that was titled “Fastest growing religion is ‘None.”:

OK, I get it. Clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church and its steadfast refusal to seriously address this issue. TV preachers always begging for money to support their lavish lifestyles. Right-wing conservative churches that have no interest in addressing the critical and controversial social justice issues of our day. There is plenty to complain about in the church today. I know that. (“Fastest growing religion is ‘None,’” part of the Star Tribune’s ongoing “The Unchurching of America” series, Nov. 11.)

But consider this. What do you gain by withdrawing from the Body? Nothing. Hypocrisy in the church? Of course. So why are you surprised? It is ingrained in our lives and always has been. (And please don’t tell me that you are free of hypocrisy.) Stay with your faith community and let your voice be heard.

The comment I hear most today from young people is this: “I am a spiritual person, but I have no time for organized religion.” This is nothing more than a huge cop-out. Every picture of the church in the New Testament is relational: the vine and the branches, the shepherd and the sheep, the hen and her brood, the temple of living stones, even St. Paul’s great analogy of the human body, Christ being the head. And the hand can’t say to the foot, “I have no need of you.” Every part of the body is important, and that includes you!

It is very difficult to maintain a vital and growing faith in isolation. I would argue that it’s impossible to do so for any length of time. So find a healthy congregation where people are well-fed by the word and the sacraments and then move out into a very needy world to make a difference. Better to light even one candle than to curse the darkness. Our world needs the church!

One more thought: The words “worship and work” have the same derivation. Worship is the work of God’s people. We don’t come there to be entertained, though worship should be engaging, uplifting and even challenging. We are created as a marvelous trilogy of mind, body and spirit. Here in America we do a good job of feeding the body and the mind, but I fear the spirit is very often woefully undernourished. How many of our major societal problems are related to people who are spiritually dead or dying? Being the church today is serious business. Please don’t neglect it. When you do, everyone loses. I hope to see you in church.


The Rev. Paul L. Harrington, Rosemount

Jane Stubblefield: “I also read that article last Sunday and felt so sad that it represented only one side of the ‘organized religion’ picture. I wanted to shout from the rooftops:

C'mon over to Shepherd of the Valley if you want to see a church that represents just the opposite of what was described. The place always hums with people of all ages, who are engaged in every possible kind of activity, who are committed to both worldwide and local community causes, and who participate in worship experiences that offer all manner of traditional and contemporary settings.  

  • Come see our youth on Wednesday evenings when, between the choir members streaming in to practice, and the youth shuttling about the building to learn how God fits into their lives, one can hardly get through the halls!

  • Come and watch the young moms supporting each other in their ‘momly’ roles.

  • Come and see the newborns baptized (I believe we had five last Sunday).

  • Come and see our seniors actively participating in our Purposeful Retirement program - learning about everything from ancestry to wellness.

  • Come and listen as couple's activities help to support and nurture the love between partners.  

  • Come and witness our Racial Truth and Reconciliation Movie Night as we watch appropriate movies to help facilitate discussions and create awareness of critical issues.

  • Come and learn how our high school youth actively support victims of poverty and natural disasters all over the country through their hands-on service trips.

  • Come and see how we support the homeless, provide a food shelf, and support women and their kids in local shelters.

  • Come and observe GodZone, our program to help guide little ones in their faith formation.

  • Come and join any one of our almost countless formal and informal groups that encourage and support faith-filled social relationships.

  • Come and share your musical talents through an incredible music program that includes rock, brass, a kids choir and a senior choir that has toured Europe. Oh yes, and we host several SPCO concerts throughout the year too.

Nope, we aren't perfect and SOTV isn't for everyone, but we have a loving, caring staff, and a congregation who will warmly welcome those of you who may be discouraged, lonely, empty, and feeling as if something is missing from your life. You won't feel any pressure to ‘join,’ you will just receive an invitation to come see what organized religion really can be about in 2018 and beyond."