I’ve never understood the thing where big ancient churches hang signs on the door demanding silence. Or the ones that kick you out if you’re not wearing the right kind of clothes.
Seriously, guys, the Vatican was cool, but after they check your passport and your purse, they check your skirt length.
Church has always been loud for me. Faith is loud, just slightly discordant singing, kids shrieking and laughing in the background. The fights you get into with your friends between Sunday school and service, the boys who throw balls that get stuck on the roof. It’s arguments about set lists and your dad downstairs rehearsing his sermon. It’s puppet shows in the morning, a teenage girl trying to be a middle-aged cowboy. Little kids sticking Bible stories on flannel boards, the littler ones crying in the background. Church has been a lot of things. It’s never been silent.
Notre Dame is beautiful. You can light a candle for five euro. For one or two, you can have a penny stamped to look like the pope. Maybe it’s exactly what some people need. I saw them praying there.
And Canterbury, well, that was an amazing place. All those artifacts, all that history. The restaurant and the gift shop right between the front door and the back pew.
They’re incredible. But I can’t find God beneath those high ceilings.
Faith is dying in Europe. That’s what they say. I guess I wouldn’t have much faith either, if my church was mostly a museum. And it’s not fair, maybe, to be so judgmental about it. People worship in different ways. But I don’t like to walk out of a church feeling empty, and if they spent less money on maintaining their stained glass, they could spend more on helping people in need.
It’s pretty, sure. But the first church I remember was held in a Jazzercise, and windows or not, it was just as good as Notre Dame.
Faith is dying in college. They say that too. Or high school. Well, as a college student, I can tell you one of the reasons why.
We’re passionate, in our teens and twenties. Full of hope and anger and righteous indignation. We want to change the world. We want to save it. And all through our childhoods we’ve talked about the church, and how it does that. When you’re twenty one, you just want everything to be fair. You want to help people. So you walk in on Sunday morning ready to give to the poor, feed the hungry, defend the defenseless. And then you find out all they want to do with the money you’re giving is install a new bell tower?
No wonder we’re leaving in droves.
And there have been books written—so many books, and I’ve read them all—about how to keep young people in the church. Well, here’s how you do it, guys: Stop selling overpriced crepes and pope dolls in the foyer, and start actually living like Jesus did.
I’ll post all my pictures of the cathedral on Facebook, but give me a church in a closed down factory, any day.