Our future is our past?

Peak Oil / Religion

Just a quick thought on how rising energy prices are going to change the way we “do” parish life…

I saw an item in the news about how congregations which have been following the ministry model of being the full-service lifestyle center are finding new challenges now that their parishioners can’t just pop by the church campus for a latte.

We’re expecting things to change this fall at the Cathedral with the expectation that folks from around the Phoenix metro area are going to be financially challenged to just pop downtown to go to a mid-week meeting or lecture or concert… (Worship services continue as long as anyone is showing up.)

Our response is to start focusing all activities on Sunday. We’ll use the model of doing whatever we can on Sunday so that the largest number of people will be able to participate directly.

It strikes me that one aspect of this new strategy is that we’re becoming sabbatarians again. “Spend the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s House.”

Which makes me think that we as a denomination know what to do in response to rising energy prices – it’s to remember what we once did. We can find models for ministry in hard times by looking back to when we did ministry in hard times.

And we did pretty good ministry back then.

Maybe there’s hope for us.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. David Bailey says

    Can you give us some details on the distance distribution of your parishioners from the cathedral and an idea of the state of public transportation in Phoenix? Thanks!

  2. Hi David –
    We actually draw from all over the metro Phoenix area – and that means that we’re at the center of a 15-20 mile circle. Part of that draw over the past decade has been our liturgies (cathedral’s are very good at them) and our music program.
    But over the past months we’ve seen folks from the outer parts coming to church much less. This has been counter-balanced by a significant increase in local people walking or driving a short distance to church. Plus we’ve started a spanish-speaking congregation that’s grown from 7 people to over 75 people a Sunday in the past six months. And they’re almost all from the surrounding neighborhood and downtown community.
    As far as mass-transit goes, we’re quite well situated. We’re on a major stop of the new light-rail system here in Phoenix, and at the intersection of two or three bus lines. Public transport isn’t in great shape here, but it’s functional and more and more people are using it. When the light-rail starts running later this fall, we’re expecting a major shift in the way people in the city get themselves around. Truth be told, it was the mass-transit system and the Cathedral’s location that were a major part of the reason I came here since I’ve been thinking this transition was going to happen for years and I wanted to be in a place that could serve as an ad-hoc laboratory for some of my ideas.

Comments are closed.