Religious institutions often see themselves as countercultural — outposts in an increasingly secular society that challenge the culture with views and practices that are no longer mainstream.
But inevitably, culture seeps in, affecting how clergy and laypeople dress and pray and behave toward one another.
A new study — the latest version of a regularly conducted survey of American congregations — finds that houses of worship, like the broader culture, are becoming increasingly informal, and increasingly open to gay men and lesbians. More and more Americans worship in congregations where drums are played, words or images are projected on screens, and praise is expressed via upstretched hands. And more and more congregations, although still a minority, allow gays to hold volunteer positions as leaders.
“Congregations are embedded in our culture and our society, and they are reflecting both the trends, but also the divisions and the conflicts,” said Mark Chaves, the director of the study and a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University.
From the study:
More people attend worship services containing drums, jumping or shouting or dancing, raising hands in praise, visual projection equipment, a time during the service when people greet one another, or speaking in tongues. Fewer people attend services that include choirs, and fewer attend services that use a written program. Some of these changes, such as the increased use of visual projection equipment, have occurred at a remarkably fast pace…
I’d be curious to see how this is reflected in just Roman Catholic congregations. How many use projections or contemporary music? How many use choirs or more traditional hymns?