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Recession sends people to church

COREY CONNELLY Sunday, April 16 2017

Anglican Bishop Reverend Claude Berkley yesterday supported the view that the downturn in the economy has triggered a surge in participation at church services.

“I want to support that view in a general kind of way,” Berkley told Sunday Newsday in response to claims by Roman Catholic priest Fr Garfield Rochard that there has been a marked increase in the turnout of parishioners at church services during the Lenten and Easter season because of the recession.

Rochard, in an interview last week, said while there has been increased attendance in services at Mt St Benedict, where he is now based, the trend can also be attributed to the recession.

“I presume it is because things are not so good in the country where people now have to turn to prayers,” Rochard had said.

“Easter has its own clientele but even with Lent there was a bigger turnout that we have found.” Rochard said since the beginning of Lent in March, priests throughout the archdiocese had been taking head counts of people attending services to determine the extent to which congregations had grown.

Yesterday, Berkley said while the Lenten season naturally engenders an increase in participation, much can also be said about the influence of the recession in facilitating larger turnouts.

“Usually, during the Lenten season, a number of more mature persons would usually step up their worshipping ways and their sense of devotion, treating it as a solemn season during which time they carry a certain discipline as they prepare for Easter,” he said.

“I will agree that, yes, it is a time where you can have increased attendance at worship but I also will support the fact that things are very difficult for a number of persons and this is something that people say openly - the place of solace for them at the moment is the church.” Berkley said the worsening crime situation and the difficulties people are experiencing with respect to managing their homes from an economic standpoint also have encouraged them to place their faith in the church.

“The issue of unemployment among some persons and with the uncertainty of the days ahead, people are looking or that kind of solace and the church remains one of those places where they do that. So I tend to agree with that kind of understanding in that way.” Berkley said having seen the attendance at Palm Sunday and Good Friday services, he was convinced of the need among many worshippers to develop a closer relationship with their God.

“Usually, Good Friday carries a threehour service and people generally shy away from such a lengthy service.

“But we have had that kind of turnout in varying ways again reflecting that sense of looking to the Divine for a greater intervention.” Asked if he felt the desire to seek God in times of desperation was a convenient approach, Berkley said: “I would not say it is a using of the church.

What has happened is that while worshipping on a regular basis is what the church encourages, there is a certain regard for the freedom of will that people have and while they might not be regular, very often they have not discounted the church altogether.

“So that they might be in support, even if not physically so by being present. In other ways, they listen to see what the church is saying. They make contributions to the church’s programmes,” he added.

Berkley said, however, he would generally like to see greater and more consistent participation within the Anglican church.



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