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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Recession Religion

Lake Avenue Church is reflected here in the empty storefront across the road.

That's literal, not figurative. Though the stores may be empty these days, Lake Avenue Church seems full.

I wondered if the same is true of all churches. It's easy to make the assumption that, during a recession, church attendance would rise. So you know me. I Google.

The only thing I found was a Gallup Poll from March of 2009. It says no, attendance is the same as it was in 3/08. But last March people hadn't been unemployed for eight, nine, ten months yet. Stores weren't closed up and down the street. Prices hadn't been so high for so long.

This slump won't last forever. (I promise!) But while it's going on, let's take a completely unscientific poll. Have you been attending your house of worship more in the past year than before? If so, is it helping? In what way?

29 comments:

Vanda said...

Movie theater and liquor store attendance is probably up.

Petrea said...

You were up late and I'm up early, Vanda. I think I did hear a statistic about movie theaters. Don't know about liquor stores, but it wouldn't surprise me. Or bars. Except who's got the money to spend on such frivolities?

Brenda's Arizona said...

I used to work at a church. People often attended out of a need. And many times they would "join" church, be active for a year or two - and then fade away. I think the pastors believed that are habitual attenders were the core of the church, and the 'rescued' attenders were the icing. Does that make sense? It would be interesting to see current (past year) statistics.

altadenahiker said...

I believe "vice" stocks go up during economic downturns -- hard liquor, gambling, etc.

Pasadena has some beautiful churches, doesn't it? And lots of them. Are you a church-goer, P?

ben wideman said...

I dunno, our church attendance has been flat, or dropped off in the last year. I wonder if it may have to do with some other factors within the congregation - or maybe the fact that my church is over educated and under paid as it is, so maybe that makes us recession-proof.

Really interesting premise... I'll start asking around campus.

Bellis said...

My church-going English friends donate 10% of their income to their church, so it's not cheap. Regular doses of two buck chuck and a $3 movie at the Academy 6 probably costs less. But does it make you feel worse? That depends on the movie....

Thib said...

I read in the newspaper yesterday that ice creams and sweets sales increased by more than 10% in France in 2009!
In recession periods, people tend to look for compensations !?

To answer your question, I don't think our church (in Cheverny) was really more crowded last year than the previous one, ... nor less!

Petrea said...

Brenda, I'm sure that's true--I myself have come and gone in more than one church.

I'm not a church-goer (anymore), Hiker. I love the architecture of many churches, though. We do have some gorgeous ones. Must get further up Lake Avenue for more photos.

Ben, if the answer to the question can be found, it might be at Fuller. I'll be interested to hear what you find out.

I have church-going friends who also tithe here in the LA area, Bellis. Now that's devotion! It's hard enough to come up with movie money these days.

It's always nice to see you, Thib. I wouldn't be surprised if the same statistic is true here in the States. What could be more reasonable than chocolate?

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» et Mme la Vache have always been faithful in attendance at the 11:00 a.m. Choral Eucharist at our parish, but we've added the Wednesday night service and are coming more regularly to the Bible study at 10:00 on Sundays. On Saturday nights, we've been attending the English service at a Chinese Lutheran ministry near our home. So, for us, attendance is up.

Jill Davis Doughtie said...

Great photo!

Thal Armathura said...

The Church of the Swapmeet aka PCC and Rose Bowl Sunday morning fleamarkets are well attended but sales are way down. Actually, their was a huge drop in spending after the 1994 Northridge earthquake and sales have never recovered. Many collectors saw their earthly collections destroyed in the earthquake and started spending their discretionary income on other pursuits. In our neighborhood it seems most people sleep in on Sundays, if not disturbed by gardeners doing their "blow and go"!

pasadenapio said...

All Saints has been filled to capacity.

Petrea said...

Ah, Louis, cowbells sound nice avec church bells.

Thank you, Jill! Nice to see you.

Thal, I would think spending at flea markets would be up. I'm thinking folks are looking for bargains these days.

Ann, is that new? I'm under the impression that All Saints is a very popular church.

Chuck Pefley said...

Good of you to promise prosperity will return, Petrea. Now, if you'll just sign the check before you mail it ...

Greg Sweet said...

I don't think there is a way for me to answer your question honestly without a false inference of double entendre because my 'place of worship' is the San Gabriel Mountains, and most of the range is closed. In the mean time, I put up extra bird feeders.

Katie said...

I don't go to church. I used to go to Starbucks on Sundays (where I could purchase and read the NY Times), but last year my branch closed so I moved over to Peet's (which doesn't offer the paper, but has great coffee). However lately I've been making coffee at home and reading the paper online, so I'd have to say that my Sunday attendance is down. However my movie theater attendence is up, as I'm trying to help keep my local theaters in business!

Petrea said...

Just thinking positive, Chuck. But hey, if you'll take a check, fine. Just don't cash it until I give the word.

Greg, your place of worship sounds a lot like mine. And I go way more often than once a week.

Katie, I do that more often than once a week, too! Coffee and reading material, that is. Such a pleasant way to enjoy life.

Ms M said...

I don't go to church either. In good weather, we often go to the MK Nature Center on Sunday mornings where I love taking photos. We occasionally go to Java on Sundays for coffee and a special treat.
(BTW, my word verification is palinfir. Must be something spooky going on in cyberspace :))

Trish said...

a friend of ours attends what he calls "Our Lady of the Fields" aka his double lot backyard, which has more flora and occasional fauna.

we attend regularly at our congregation. Membership is relatively level, but we also instituted a "young members dues reduction", which helps. Attendance is about the same---we don't have an offertory so services are free, technically.

The weekend after 9-11, attendance was up hugely. For a month or so, it stayed up. After that, it tapered off, but has stayed pretty level.

Other than the catholic churches locally, which have had a few legal issues, most houses of worship have continued in our neck of the woods.

likenarnia said...

way to stimulate great dialogue. working a church something i have noticed is a rise in people wanting to volunteer who are out of work. i think this trend might be true for other non-profit or volunteer driven orgs (and churches are volunteer driven if we let them be) in times of high unemployment. the ones that touch me the most are the out of work teachers who willingly sign up to volunteer in our school based after-school program. i don't think i would have the gumption to volunteer at something only months early i had been paid to do.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Never cared for that concrete wonder with it's jutting cross shoved into our faces from the 210. Ostentatious in appearance, fundamentalist in attendance. That should win me a few enemies.

Thal Armathura said...

Petrea, Spending on arts and antiquities, of which I am a 35 year purveyor, is down at the local fleamarkets, since this is very much discretionary spending. My records show that this is a long time trend: sales are 10% of what they were before the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and that isn't considering inflation. Most sales of art and antiquities have moved to the Internet, along with many other commodities. It's easy to stay at home and do your shopping and your worshipping.

Thal Armathura said...

PA and Petrea,
Here a photograph of when Lake Avenue Church was an architectural gem in Craftsman style on the NW corner of Maple and North Lake, the photo from the big snow of January 1949, http://avenuetotheskylakeavenuepasadena.blogspot.com/2009/08/lake-avenue-snow-january-11-1949.html

The mountains are covered in clouds and snow today as I look out my office window at Lake and Colorado and the view is similar except for the freeway and the present Lake Avenue concrete bunker church.

Petrea said...

PA, when I stated in a post that I wasn't a Christian, someone asked me in comments, "If you're not a Christian, what are you?"

Thal, I didn't realize that was your business. I guess I was thinking of second-hand, knowing people are needing to buy cheap.
I'd never buy art or antiquities on the web, knowing how the trade in fakes and illegal imports has picked up.
I see the snow on Lake Ave. in your picture! I don't think I see the church, though. There might be old photos on their website.

Shan said...

Interesting question. I'd say though my attendance ebbs and flows, our churches around here(the Bible belt-Oklahoma/Arkasas region)seem to be on fire with attendance and belief in God. He seems to be moving in peoples lives in a more personal way. I like to listen to LifeChurch.tv online or on Instant Netflix. My tithing has been more spread out (and personal) as well. I tend to give more in little bits or where I feel led to help out and not restricted to my church body and regular commitments. Check it out Petrea! God IS and always will be our creator. GLORY! :D

Petrea said...

You're a sweetie, Shan. I think most people are generous and want to give to people who need it (notice the outpouring for Haiti). It's personal, as you say, as is spirituality.

Thal Armathura said...

Petrea,
Lake Avenue Church is there in the top left of the photo in the snow, but it's hard to recognize because of the unusual historic view and low lying mist is obscuring the top of the steeple. You can make out the bell tower slats from the steeple and part of the south facing facade. Save the picture to your computer and then enlarge it, as it has a lot of detail. Imagine you are standing on the Lake Avenue Freeway Bridge now and looking North and Northwest, and you have the same view from 1949.

FA said...

What an interesting post and question. Our attendance has not increased...but curiously, our donations have.

I like how Brenda's pastor put it - core and icing. Indeed!

Petrea said...

That's very interesting, FA! And heartening. This is the type of discussion that could greatly benefit from your input. And of course, we can go on forever!