Sunday, January 25, 2009

Secularization of Europe

from A Sermon by Fr. Davenport, 13 January 2008
Shortly before he died, Nouwen returned to Holland to lecture at his seminary. There were just thirty-six students instead of the hundreds which had been there when he was a student. A century ago, 98 percent of Dutch people attended church. Now less than 15 percent do. “Almost half the church buildings in Holland have been destroyed or converted into restaurants, art galleries, or condominiums.”

Yancey writes, “Whenever I visit Europe and see the mostly hollow shells of an institution that dominated the continent for fifteen hundred years, I wonder if the same pattern will play out here [in the United States].” Yancey has hope that our country will “resist the avalanche of disbelief” because individual churches here have long been sending people on mission. Those on mission learn about suffering from the church in China, passionate evangelism from Africa, and intercessory prayer in Korea. “Just as nothing threatens my faith like a visit to agnostic Europe,” Yancey writes, “nothing invigorates my faith more than a visit to churches in non-Western countries.”

from the blog On the Go with Bo!
My parents in-law live in Utrecht, and we come here often. They have recently moved into a beautiful apartment on the canal, which used to be an old monastery and church. So what I find amusing is that the only place in this world where I've seen churches being converted into apartments is Holland. Seems like the church going population in Holland has decreased drastically over the past decades, that the churches don't have enough revenue and thus are being sold off to private developers. Only in Holland!

Well, not only in Holland. Jason at The Wild Hunt wrote today about post-Christian anxiety. Here are a couple of pictures I took in Europe, examples of the secularization. The first two of the Vondelkerk are in Amsterdam, but the second, that one of the elaborate, church paintings was in Scotland in what is now a restaurant dining hall. It's where we had our strictly secular supper one evening.

The Vondelkerk, view from the end of the block.

office address plaque at the Vondelkerk and bulletin for the opera to be performed in its hall; it still hosts weddings, too

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