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Archive for March, 2011

Members and Attendees

March 30th, 2011 No comments

Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 12:27

Are you a member of this church? Would you like to be?

Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a website where you can find different types of reports by our Research Services arm. If you’ve ever wondered how many Presbyterians there are, or the number of congregations they belong to, you can go there to find the answers.

Periodically, the folks at Research Services issue a report, and, frankly, most of those are pretty depressing. The number of people worshiping in PC(USA) churches on Sunday, for example, is down by almost 20% from what it was in 1999.

Sometimes, though, the stats aren’t depressing as much as they are interesting. For example, one of those studies showed that smaller churches like ours have a higher ratio of members to worshipers than larger churches do.

Churches our size (50-100) average 64% in attendance each week. So if we had 89 members, then we would expect to have about 57 people attending our worship services. A church 10 times our size, however, would expect a lower percentage (43%) to attend, or about 382 people.

Where are the others? Read more…

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Do You Have Free Will? I Hope So!

March 23rd, 2011 No comments

John Tierney blogs about free will in the Science section of Monday’s New York Times. He’s coming from a non-religious scientific point of view, but here’s the takeaway:

… [people] pragmatically intuit that regardless of whether free will exists, our society depends on everyone’s believing it does. The benefits of this belief have been demonstrated in other research showing that when people doubt free will, they do worse at their jobs and are less honest.

Tierney summarizes some of that research, which shows that determinists are quicker to cheat than people who believe in free will.

However, I would have liked Tierney to address another concern: the presupposition that the universe is deterministic. Is that what scientists think? I was under the impression scientists had identified non-deterministic phenomena in the universe, like radioactive decay. While you can determine the half-life of a radioactive isotope, you can’t predict when an individual atom of that material will decay. Is that deterministic? In other words, if you could wind the universe up again and start over from the same initial state, would those atoms all decay at exactly the same moment they did the first time? If so, wouldn’t that be prediction?

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No Podcast for 3/20

March 20th, 2011 No comments

“Ah, snap!” Something went wrong with the recorder so there won’t be a podcast this week. That’s a bummer: I thought it was pretty good. But there’s always next week!

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Shortest Meeting

March 13th, 2011 No comments

The bank needed to have minutes showing who was authorized to write checks on the Deacons’ bank account, so we had to have a special meeting of Session today.

Short Meeting

That’s exactly 1/100th of a second less than a minute. We opened with prayer, then the authorization was moved, seconded, and carried, as was a proposal to adjourn, and the meeting was closed with prayer. I doubt that I’ll have a Session meeting that short ever again.

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The Catholic Church (Part 1)

March 7th, 2011 No comments

I’ve mentioned that “Orthodox” is a word I’d like us Mainline Protestants to reclaim. Another word like that is “Catholic.”

The word “catholic” means “universal” or “entire.” It comes from a Greek word that means “according to the whole.” Unlike “orthodox,” this word actually appears in Scripture, where members of the high priest’s party examine the disciples and order them not to testify about Jesus:

So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

The word that eventually became “catholic” is translated here as “at all.” The only place in Scripture where this word occurs is here in Acts 4:18.

If that verse were the only place Christians used the word catholic, it wouldn’t matter. But of course it isn’t. Most of the time, when American Protestants say “catholic” they’re referring to the Roman Catholic Church. This is reasonable, as 95% of “Catholics” are members of the Church of Rome, and only 5% belong to the 22 Eastern Catholic churches.

But at the same time, Protestants assert their own catholicity. Read more…