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Archive for Sunday, January 3, 1999

CHURCH LEADERS SEE MORE COOPERATION

January 3, 1999

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Religious leaders in Lawrence say there's a trend toward more acceptance of religion among the population.

Religious leaders in Lawrence see different trends in religion -- in their own sects and throughout the community. As we approach a new millennium, several were asked what direction they believe religion will take.

These are their answers.

Rev. Marcus McFaul

First Baptist Church

"I think you're going to continue to see declining denominational loyalty. ... Where as at one time, the denominations gave and supported identity, that has been frittered away. Churches are going to have to be very intentional about creating a denominational identity.

That isn't a bad thing, he said. He also thinks churches in the community will work together more.

"The other thing is cooperation, cross-cooperation, from different religious traditions is just going to go the roof, in my estimation. ... You'll see greater cooperation across regional and local lines of affiliation. ... Related to church and worship, I think you're going to see a continued use of cafeteria-style churches and worship. And smart churches, I think, will be those that offer a variety of options within that one congregation. ... I think that there is real value to that."

Among the options will be different sorts of services -- stripped-down, basic services; formal services with ceremony; and warmer, folksy services. Without changing doctrine, that can give people what they need at different points of life.

"You're going to have to communicate your message in a way that is going to direct attention, and make it stand out over the din of noise of competing messages."

Father Vince Krische

St. Lawrence Catholic Center

"I think that religion is entering into a new era. It is becoming more and more important to people. I think there was a time that people were moving away, trying to find other ways to find answers to the big question they have about life and about the big issues, and I don't think what they found was very much that was satisfying.

"When they move away from religion and we start looking to answers, the only response we can get is a human one. That answer isn't enough for us, because we are not just human beings, we are spiritual beings."

People, he said, have drifted from religion and blind faith. They have found science and philosophy. Their return to faith and religion will be stronger for it.

"With the possibility of people returning, but returning in a stronger spirit, I think is the future for religion is going to be very bright. ... I think that materialism has not been sufficient. It's just not been enough. I've know many young people who have had many things in life, and have found that it has not quenched their thirst. ... I think what they listen for is something that has been tested, something that they can believe that comes from a tradition, that's proven over time. Something that's worked for other people in other times, something that's universally applicable. ... I think that they're all looking for truth. ... I think that they're looking for justice."

Rev. Pieter Willems

Mustard Seed Christian Fellowship

"What I would look at is where do I see Christianity going. ... I would say that the church ... is going back to Biblical Christianity, and is going to look less and less like organized, denominational Christianity that we have become accustomed to. ...

"I believe that what we will see is that the average person, the regular person, will be doing the same things that Jesus Christ did and that his disciples did, and that is doing hands-on helping and serving and ministering to the people around them. Christianity will not be going to church on Sunday."

He said he thinks religion is moving away from everything being centered on a church and toward religion being about community.

"I believe that is what God wants the regular, everyday person to be about. I see the church moving towards that more and more. ...

"The churches in America right now, each individual congregation can kind of do its own thing. ... I think when those kind of difficult times come, whether they are economic or other type crises, suddenly those type of barriers that we have, those kind of things won't be as important. ... We'll start working together more. ... Churches need to work together more."

Rabbi Judith Beiner

Lawrence Jewish Community Center

"What I see happening in Judaism, is that Judaism, like other religions, is getting more polarized. There is a tremendous amount of friction, because of it. ... But what balances that, is in the last few years, there has been a tremendous growth in Jewish study. ... One of these forces, I think, is going to win out."

Pessimists say there will be a split, she said, but she is an optimist. "In the 20th Century, there have been so many things that Jews had to rally around."

The Holocaust, the birth of Israel and anti-Semitism have given Jews a reason to band together. Lacking earth-moving forces like those, the community has time to bicker over differences. "In absence of that, we can focus on all the disagreements we have."

Rev. William Dulin

Calvary Church of God in Christ

"When you say religion, to me, that is a broad-open statement, because I like to refer to the Bible definition of pure religion. ... To me, that'll never change. ... So when we say where is religion going, there are a lot of different avenues that people are calling religion that really aren't true religions. So I don't believe that the basic foundation of what God has set up as the relationship between God and man, I don't think that'll ever change. ...

"What I see happening is people being filled with their own righteousness, and saying anything goes. ... So many people feel anything's all right; we've lost the standard. And because of that we've got away from the real standard that God set up. Jesus Christ's the same yesterday, today and forever. ... I believe you will always have a true and a false course. It is up to the individual who seeks truth to follow the true course, and those that get caught up in whatever sounds good or suits their fancy, then you can be led astray by that."

He thinks that more churches with common beliefs will come together, putting aside differences. "That's what I hope to see happen here in Lawrence."

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is fhaynes@ljworld.com.

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