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The battle for church membership

Published:Saturday | August 6, 2016 | 12:00 AMRuddy Mathison
Ronald Keane-Dawes

Many religious experts believe that while the influence of traditional churches - Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist - remains strong in many places, it is waning in others.

According to rector of the St Thomas Ye Vale Anglican Church in Bog Walk, St Catherine, Father Ronald Keane-Dawes, the older generation is more inclined to stay with their traditional faith and by extension the church in which they were christened.

Agreeing that membership, especially among young people in these churches, has seen a gradual decline over the years, Keane-Dawes admitted that, in his 12 years as rector at St Thomas Ye Vale he has not seen an increase in membership.

No growth in members


"With all honesty, I cannot say that our membership has increased," he told Family and Religion, partly attributing this to rural-urban migration.

"In our situation, the young people who were raised in Anglican homes often leave high school, migrate to attain higher education elsewhere and don't return to the church on completion of their studies."

Added Keane-Dawes: "On the other hand, there are some who have less interest in these churches or religious matters nowadays."

According to him, the church has been unable to attract people who reside in Bog Walk and surrounding areas because the population has been turning away from religion.

"It is not something symptomatic to the traditional churches alone, it is a prevailing problem where people have lost interest in religion," he noted.

He dismissed the view that the message of saving souls coming from leaders of traditional churches has been watered down, and that young people are more attracted to evangelical and other protestant churches which have seen increases in membership across the board.

"In the traditional churches and certainly in the Anglican church we work by a liturgy. It is tailored in a sense but has flexibility in it, but you have much more freedom in the Pentecostal churches," he admitted.

"They find more comfort in a place where the ordinary man, the uneducated man is allowed to preach," Keane-Dawes explained, adding that in the traditional churches this does not happen.