When we look at our magazines from the 19th and 20th century we notice that around the turn of the century there was a particular change in the attendance at the regular church services.
Among the questions of interest discussed at the Annual United Conference of the Methodist Church of Victoria and Tasmania lately held in Melbourne was that of the churches and the masses.
The Secretary of the Home Missions Committee, in presenting his report, showed that year by year, for
many years past, the number of Methodist Sunday School Scholars in Victoria had been decreasing.
They had lost 8000 scholars from their schools since 1901, and this notwithstanding the fact that the population was now greater both in the city and in the country. The net loss of scholars in Melbourne and suburbs in the past six years was 625, while the population had increased by nearly 50,000.
The Secretary reckons that there should be about 84,000 Methodists in Melbourne, if they had the proper proportion of population. They have church accommodation for 34,512. The average morning congregation is 12,366; the average evening congregation is 17,604. That is, the seating accommodation of the Methodist Churches of Melbourne and suburbs is less than half what it should be to care for all who ought to be Methodists, according to the Secretary’s estimate, while the evening congregations are only able to fill about half the seats actually provided. Some of the best of their churches were never more than half full.
The Secretary was deeply impressed by all these figures, which his duty required him to present to the Conference; yet he also felt comforted, and desired his brethren to take some consolation from the fact that whereas they were continually losing ground, they were really gaining, when compared with the other denominations.
Which, being interpreted, means that the others are losing more rapidly than the Methodists, who now claim to have more preaching places, Sunday Schools, and Sunday School scholars than the Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists put together.
The decrease in church attendance is a feature of the present day; everyone notices it, and many try to
explain it, with a view to finding a remedy. But most of the philosophising on this interesting subject fails to take into account what the Scriptures say that would bear upon it, and therefore falls short of giving the real reason, which would afford true consolation to those whose minds are submitted to the
divine Mind, as expressed in the Word.
Christendom may or may not have been unwise in its methods of attracting the people to itself; the churches may or may not be in touch with the aspirations of the people; the clergy and membership of the churches may or may not have led lives entirely consistent with their preaching and profession. All of this is somewhat beside the question as to why the church attendance declines. The phenomenon is not due to either the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of professing Christians of the present, generation, if we rightly apprehend the matter. That this is so, is shown by the fact that worldly congregations suffer as well as those that are trying to stem the tide of worldliness.
The New Covenant Advocate May, 1909
Decrease in church attendance not only a recent feature #2 The Mystery
Decrease in church attendance not only a recent feature #3 The German Scare
Decrease in church attendance not only a recent feature #4 Noncomformists In Politics
Decrease in church attendance not only a recent feature #5 Necessity of attendance
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