Yangan’s Jenny Bryant fears country churches are becoming a thing of the past due to busy modern lifestyles.
Yangan’s Jenny Bryant fears country churches are becoming a thing of the past due to busy modern lifestyles. Kerri Burns-Taylor

Country churches under threat

PARISHIONERS across the region fear dwindling numbers of bodies in the pews during Sunday services could see country churches become a thing of the past.

PARISHIONERS across the region fear dwindling numbers of bodies in the pews during Sunday services could see country churches become a thing of the past.

Busy schedules and lack of family time are being listed as just some of the aspects that are seeing people turn away from their weekly church service.

Busy schedules and lack of family time are being listed as just some of the aspects that are seeing people turn away from their weekly church service.

Many country churches attracted 15 or more parishioners for their often-fortnightly services but some are being forced to close the doors as pews stay empty on a regular basis.

Many country churches attracted 15 or more parishioners for their often-fortnightly services but some are being forced to close the doors as pews stay empty on a regular basis.

Anglican honorary priest Reverend Barbara Diery said while it was a concern some of the smaller churches were beginning to close their doors, they operate on the principle the doors will stay open as long as people are attending.

Anglican honorary priest Reverend Barbara Diery said while it was a concern some of the smaller churches were beginning to close their doors, they operate on the principle the doors will stay open as long as people are attending.

The Anglican church at Tannymorel is in the process of being closed and Rev Diery said it was due to the parishioners being lost to illness and death.

The Anglican church at Tannymorel is in the process of being closed and Rev Diery said it was due to the parishioners being lost to illness and death.

“The congregations are definitely smaller now than they used to be and that is a concern,” she said.

“The congregations are definitely smaller now than they used to be and that is a concern,” she said.

Rev Diery said the problem of dwindling numbers was being felt across the board and was partly due to a loss of younger generations at weekly services.

Rev Diery said the problem of dwindling numbers was being felt across the board and was partly due to a loss of younger generations at weekly services.

“The younger generation is not churched and it’s not part of their lifestyle,” she said.

“The younger generation is not churched and it’s not part of their lifestyle,” she said.

“It is almost two generations who have drifted away and we would love to see them return.

“It is almost two generations who have drifted away and we would love to see them return.

“In a lot of cases church was part of social life also but now we have sport and shopping on Sundays and sometimes it’s the only family time.”

“In a lot of cases church was part of social life also but now we have sport and shopping on Sundays and sometimes it’s the only family time.”

Yangan Anglican parishioner Jenny Bryant said the loss of these little churches was a loss to the entire community of the district.

Yangan Anglican parishioner Jenny Bryant said the loss of these little churches was a loss to the entire community of the district.

“The more we move towards globalisation, the more we need our small local communities, where people have individual identities, know each other personally, and care about one another,” she said.

“The more we move towards globalisation, the more we need our small local communities, where people have individual identities, know each other personally, and care about one another,” she said.

“A church is an important community focus – we can’t afford to lose any more.

“A church is an important community focus – we can’t afford to lose any more.

“Unfortunately, it seems that there are not enough people who believe strongly enough to drag themselves out of bed on a Sunday morning and go to church, especially if they have to get children ready as well,” she said.

“Unfortunately, it seems that there are not enough people who believe strongly enough to drag themselves out of bed on a Sunday morning and go to church, especially if they have to get children ready as well,” she said.

Mrs Bryant said today was different to earlier times when people vigilantly pencilled a church trip into their Sunday agenda.

Mrs Bryant said today was different to earlier times when people vigilantly pencilled a church trip into their Sunday agenda.

“On Sundays entire families piled into whatever conveyance they had and headed towards a small, wooden building often standing alone amongst the paddocks,” she said.

“On Sundays entire families piled into whatever conveyance they had and headed towards a small, wooden building often standing alone amongst the paddocks,” she said.

“When there is no one left to worship, the building is de-consecrated and sold.

“When there is no one left to worship, the building is de-consecrated and sold.

"Admittedly, they do make trendy homes, but what a tragedy this is.”

"Admittedly, they do make trendy homes, but what a tragedy this is.”

Freestone parishioner Alison Payne said while it was sad when churches closed, it was a sign of the times as more people turned away from regular church attendance.

Freestone parishioner Alison Payne said while it was sad when churches closed, it was a sign of the times as more people turned away from regular church attendance.

Mrs Payne said there was a lot to be appreciated about the character of the humble country churches.

Mrs Payne said there was a lot to be appreciated about the character of the humble country churches.

She said the smaller churches had a friendly and informal atmosphere and allowed for close friendships to develop among parishioners.

She said the smaller churches had a friendly and informal atmosphere and allowed for close friendships to develop among parishioners.

“They’re more intimate and the preachers are only a couple of metres away from you,” she said.

“They’re more intimate and the preachers are only a couple of metres away from you,” she said.

“But a little church is no good if nobody is attending,” she said.

“But a little church is no good if nobody is attending,” she said.

Mrs Payne also echoed Rev Diery’s sentiments that the social aspect of church had ceased and contributed to the dwindling numbers.

Mrs Payne also echoed Rev Diery’s sentiments that the social aspect of church had ceased and contributed to the dwindling numbers.

“People don’t think church is important anymore.

“People don’t think church is important anymore.

“Once people gathered a church for socialisation as much as religion,” she said.

“Once people gathered a church for socialisation as much as religion,” she said.


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