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Indicators: Nov. 25

November 25, 2009, 12:00 am

19% of churches consider themselves in excellent financial health, compared to 31 percent in 2000, according to Faith Communities Today’s 2008 survey.
8.5 million is the number of clients served by Catholic charities in 2008, a 10.5 percent increase over 2007, according to Catholic Charities USA.

"Our attendance is staying the same and increasing a little bit. In this time of chaos, a community of faith can offer grounding and certainty amidst the turmoil."  —Rev. Brandon Johnson, associate minister at the United Church of Santa Fe

Tales of woe are a popular facet of recession-era media coverage, and aspects of organized religion’s story are no different.

The Faith Communities Today report—a product of several partnered congregations, researchers and the Hartford Seminary, released in September 2009—illustrates a dire future of “declining attendance at worship, eroding financial health, waning spiritual vitality and increasing uncertainty about their mission and purpose” for congregations nationwide.

But Santa Fe, it seems, is more or less resilient. Though the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has had a 6 percent decline in its Catholic Center administrative budget since 2008, according to Executive Director of Finance Tony Salgado, Sunday donations remain steady.

And Rev. Brandon Johnson, the associate minister at the United Church of Santa Fe, says that not only is attendance steady but, in other areas, his church is growing.

 “What we’re seeing right now is decreased giving in some areas, but people [are] more willing to volunteer,” Johnson says. “[It’s] people wanting to be around the faith community—realizing they financially can’t make that commitment, but still wanting to give to the community.”

And, he says, “oddly enough,” some people are giving more.

“When this uncertainty is surrounding them, those who are able to give look at it and go, ‘OK, it’s time for me to step up and give resources where people need them,’” Johnson says. “If they can provide that financially, they do.”

Maybe it’s just human nature—or churchgoers’ nature, anyway—to want to give more when times are tough.

“The reason is, the faithful continue to be generous,” Salgado says.

If you can’t see the reason in that, just believe it.


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