Over 50 Old Firsters responded to our recent congregational survey. You can read a summary of the responses HERE.
As I reflect on the results, I am reminded that while we share values and vision (“Love FIRST”), Old First prides itself in its diversity. We like to believe that people of varied backgrounds, traditions, and beliefs can be happy among us.
One consequence of our diversity is that we don’t always share exactly the same definition of a meaningful church experience. What is important to me about our congregational life might not be the same as what is important to you. For every person who adores the rich sound of our historic organ, another person prefers simple, meditative music. For every early riser who wishes our service started at 10 am, another finds it hard to get to church by 11 am. For every person who feels more human & financial resources should go into programs for children & youth, another wishes our community service ministries didn’t have to beg for volunteers.
The purpose of this year’s survey was to better understand how the life of our church has changed since our sanctuary re-opened after the pandemic lockdown, with the hopes of determining a course of action that might increase attendance.
What we find, though, is that there is no single, simple solution. While one person attends less frequently than formerly because Old First is “too traditional,” another says that Old First is “not traditional enough.” Some admit that church is simply a lower priority than it used to be and others explain that life in a post-pandemic world is busier. Parents of young children wish our programs were more kid-friendly. The logistics of getting to church are difficult–insufficient public transportation, lack of parking, inconvenient start time–and some admit that Zoom worship is a tempting alternative.
For all these challenges, though, there are those who find their connection to Old First has deepened in the past three or four years. The church provided a tight-knit virtual community during lockdown that–for some anyway–has continued through more frequent weekly interactions. We used to say that it would be great to offer a mid-week prayer group; Zoom has actually made that dream a reality!
As Esther said as we gathered for worship last Sunday, we’re a family. In any family, you don’t always like everything that’s happening, but you still love one another. #LoveFirst
Where do we go from here? What have we learned that will help us sustain our community into its fourth century? Come to church on Sunday, November 19 when we will wrestle with how our personal preferences vary from our fellow worshipers, and what Old First might do to commit ourselves to a collective vision for the future.
Suzanne Cole, chair, Congregational Life SLG