At a conference in San Diego a few years ago, I was privileged to hear a talk by research professor Brené Brown. After the talk, she took questions from the audience via a moderator. One of the questions had to do with declining church membership, attendance, and giving. Her response was very interesting. She said, “I suppose the decline is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed by church leaders. However, all of my research clearly shows that the need for belonging is increasing.”
I’ve been thinking about that response during the last few days because members of the Cathedral staff and I are working on updating our membership rolls. Auditing and verifying the rolls is one of the projects often undertaken during a transition in leadership.
One of my colleagues mentioned reports suggesting that people – especially young adults – no longer consider church membership important. Those reports appear to stand in contrast to Brené Browns findings about belonging. I’m banking on Dr. Brown’s conclusions. And that’s why it is so important to make sure our membership rolls are up to date and accurate. These rolls document the level of interest in belonging to this community of Christians.
We have sent a letter to over 700 individuals for whom we have no record of a contribution for at least twelve months. In that letter, we asked several questions inviting them to tell us how they would like to be recorded in our rolls: Have any of those 700+ people joined another church? How many of them do not want to remain on our rolls? Which ones want to be considered “active” members and which ones prefer to be “inactive” members? Does someone have a pastoral concern that needs the attention of one of our clergy? Would any of them like to simply be listed as a “Friend of the Cathedral?” Not everyone received that letter!
I also sent out emails to our entire email list last Friday regarding this project and including the canonical description of membership in The Episcopal Church. That email was to alert the entire Cathedral community to the membership audit. Just because you received that email does not mean that there is any problem with your record.
This process has brought to my attention that we have a significant number of active people in the Cathedral community who are counted as members although they have never officially “joined.” If you may be one of those, I would like nothing better than to assist you with the process. Here’s how it works:
- If you have never been Baptized, we can prepare you for Baptism, then present you to the Bishop for Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant.
- If you have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, with water and in the Name of the Trinity, in any Christian denomination, we can record your Baptism. Then, as soon as possible, we would like for you to be prepared to be Confirmed by the Bishop.
- If you have been Baptized and Confirmed in another denomination, we can record you as a Baptized member and prepare you to be presented to the Bishop to be Received into The Episcopal Church.
- If you have been a member of another Episcopal Church, we can write for the transfer of your membership.
The process of belonging in any of those ways involves completing a couple of forms that provide us with information for our database and serving as your commitment to “work, pray, and give for the spread of the Kingdom of God.”
If you are uncertain about your member status, please contact Michelle Vieria, the Assistant Cathedral Administrator, either by email or by telephone (303 577-7721). She will look up your record and let you know if there is something that needs to be done. The fact that you have taken the time to read this message is an indication of your desire to participate, belong, and support the mission of Saint John’s Cathedral. Thank you for that!
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ron Pogue
Saint John’s Cathedral