Thursday, November 16, 2006

downtown churches

Tuesday's PortlandTribune had an interesting cover story about the plight of Portland's downtown churches. I used to attend First Unitarian, Scott and I met at the beautiful First Congregational UCC, and we often admire First Presbyterian Church. I can't say we stopped attending First Congregational because it was a downtown church. While we liked the church and its service, both of us didn't really connect within anyone else there -- not that we're really connecting with anyone at the church attend now. We are both really bad at church socializing -- hence why it took us three months to meet. I suppose we liked the church we attend now because it's much smaller and more intimate than First Cong, its closer to Scott's house, and (admittedly this is shallow) has a later starting time of 11:00 a.m.

I suppose the glaring ommission in the Tribune article is that religious fundamentalism is a major contributing factor in the growing appeal of suburban churches compared with the stagnant/declining sizes of many traditional and theologically careful (and liberal-leaning) downtown churches. Most downtown churches carry traditional mainline denominational baggage (hence all the "First" church names), such as whether to include/exclude gays, whereas many suburban churches are fundamentalist-orientated have already concluded such debates.

More positively, the Tribune edition included an article about First Unitarian which seems to have the opposite problems of the other downtown churches. As a proudly theologically/politically liberal church, it continues to grow, has expansion plans, and is considering adding a third Sunday service. They're currently building on their block and have plans to build a new sanctuary (if they ever raise the money from the admittedly thrift UU members).

I attended First UU for about a year. Although its size was intimidating, I liked its progressive culture and Dr. Sewell is a great pastor. My main reason reason for leaving was that I missed Christian tradition and, again, didn't really connect with anyone.


grace said...

I giggled at your mention of the starting time affecting your choice. A "Martin Luther" scholar friend of mine says that the reason we began having church around 10 in the morning, not earlier, is that Martin and his buddies liked to talk theology over a few pints on Saturday nights.....they had to start the services early enough for it to still be technically morning but they wanted it late enough to sleep in past sunrise.'re in good company with that line of thinking!


Amresh Puri said...

Has anyone ever told you that you look like David Brent?

Thanks for the Portland pics, that is a funny Subway sign; and I like the "Weird" sign too!