I attended a wonderful Church of Scotland memorial service yesterday. The eulogies were excellent, the readings appropriate and the hymns were classics such as ‘Onward Christian soldiers’ and ‘I vow to thee my country’. You would never hear these in a normal service. The only time you hear decent hymns is at weddings or funerals when they’re chosen by members of the congregation rather than by the minister. This is just one example of the fundamental disconnect between the church and its audience (both actual and potential).
As I argued for Think Scotland this week, the protestant churches in particular are useless at getting their message across. Their dwindling congregations are generally made up of elderly conservative types. But services are typically made up of tuneless ditties nobody has heard of, soft-left pieties from the pulpit and a liturgy that has been massacred linguistically.
Worse, non-churchgoers are offered nothing to persuade them to turn up on a Sunday.
The churches need to think fundamentally about what they can offer that has mass appeal (I’d suggest great art, relevant moral guidance, a sense of history and a moment of calm solemnity in the week) and market it properly.