Is there less faith around than there used to be?  Well, there is less church-going, in the UK at least. In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, my parish was building a new and bigger church;  here in Liverpool churches are closing because numbers of people and priests have decreased. Last night a young man, perhaps in his mid thirties, wanted to get into St. Hugh’s church to light a candle because it was his father’s fourth death anniversary.  He came into the convent chapel instead and two of us prayed with him. He was shocked to know our church was set to close, though admitted he never goes. But still, it meant a lot to him to light a candle for his beloved father.

When Jesus came on the scene, John the Baptist said “I must decrease, he must increase.”  This got me thinking about all the decreasing that’s going on around us.  The small group of faithful parishioners are sad to see our church closing. Will there be an increasing of the strength of the community who will come together and try to make it work?   Will the closure of churches be a wake-up call?  Is the Holy Spirit finding new spaces to move in?  How many people profit from the increased opportunities for hearing the Christmas message via TV, radio and internet?

“The Big Silence” 3-part TV series last year resulted in a big increase in people visiting St. Beuno’s retreat centre in North wales.  There is an increase in the number of choirs in the UK – they outnumber  fish and chip shops, according to Aled Jones on the Sunday night TV program “Songs of Praise”, which at 50 years old is the world’s longest running religious program.  Nativity plays and carol concerts are still popular in schools and attract parents who don’t go to church. Fund raising and action on behalf of charities to help those in need are alive and well.

Should we be downcast at the decreasing in the numbers, too,  in religious congregations?  Andrew O’Connell,  in an online article “Vocations after Cloyne” comments:  “during these depressing days it’s understandable and very easy to forget a central truth of our faith- that the Holy Spirit is at work now, particularly now in times of chaos and disappointment. If anything, the history of the Church teaches us that it is at times like this that the Holy Spirit is working most vigorously.”

Where is the Holy Spirit leading us?  Who can say what the future will hold as we continue to walk on the water, trying to keep our eyes on Jesus.  

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