There was a fascinating article in The Washington Post from January 6th: “The happiest, least stressful, most meaningful jobs in America.” The happiest jobs in the U.S.? Agriculture, logging, and forestry followed by real estate, rental, and leasing. The simple picture in the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that “a white collar appears to come with significantly more stress than a blue one.”*
Another interesting part of the survey was asking folks about “the happiest, most meaningful and most stressful activities” and “the happiest places on earth.” I about fell off my chair when I saw that “religious and spiritual activities” were ranked as the happiest and most meaningful AND that “place of worship” was the happiest place on earth. Now that’s quite a thought to share for this week!
As you can imagine, this article has been making the rounds in my clergy circles. Many clergy (me included) are heartened while also asking questions about what we make of the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey results when most congregations have seen our worship attendance numbers shrink since Covid and church membership has been decreasing nationally since the 1990s. The truth is that some of our churches are in decline, in the process of selling church buildings, outright closing, and/or becoming legacy churches in one way or another. Churches are wrestling with questions about church vitality that our colleagues in ministry decades ago rarely had to consider.
Hartford International University for Religion & Peace conducted a study in 2020 that surveyed 15,278 congregations from across 80 denominations. Some of the findings were sobering, especially hearing that 30% of U.S. congregations are unlikely to survive the next 20 years. However, there are clear and demonstrated paths toward vitality. Churches adapted during the pandemic. Congregations are becoming more racially diverse. And churches are now embracing the usage of technology in ways we might not have in the before times. It is not all gloom and doom.**
I don’t know what the future holds anymore than you do.
But I do know that none of us can take for granted that any church will always be part of any given community, that includes Colchester Federated Church.
Though once again, we are seeing that religious and spiritual activities contribute to our happiness and help us make meaning in our lives.
Moreover, the “happiest place on earth” might just be one’s place of worship.
And that is some good news to take to heart this week.
*Andrew Van Dam, “The happiest, least stressful, most meaningful jobs in America,” January 6, 2023, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/01/06/happiest-jobs-on-earth/
**”Findings from Largest-Ever Survey of U.S. Congregations,” Hartford International University for Religion & Peace, October 28, 2021, https://www.hartfordinternational.edu/news-events/news/faith-communities-today-releases-findings-largest-ever-survey-us-congregations-0
Photo from our Discipleship Class Retreat at Silver Lake Camp (taken in 2019).
Thursday Thoughts 1/19/23