Easter dying out?
Church leaders believe the Easter traditions and rituals are not dying out – and will not perish – but many are worried about the involvement of this and the next generation in Barbados.
While Barbadians in general continue to go to church on Good Friday and Easter, engage in foot-washing and partake of the sacraments associated with the Christian celebration, falling attendance, particularly among the young population, is raising concern among the men and women of the cloth.
But Anglican Bishop Dr John Holder, who is also Archbishop of the West Indies, told the SUNDAY?SUN that while Easter was not as popular as Christmas, it was still “as strong as ever” in the Anglican faith.
“We still treat it as the most important festival for the year. Easter doesn’t have the flair and pull of Christmas. It is more a reflective time and not like Christmas which is full of giving, carol singing and so on. Easter has become more of an in-house thing [for the church] while Christmas is more like a national thing.”
He said while the church did not “push” Easter like Christmas, more could be done to attract, in particular, the youth, “to help people understand what Easter is all about”.
Pentecostal minister Rev Dr Lucille Baird, of Mount Zion’s Missions Inc., said while she understood why Christmas would appeal to younger people because of heavy commercialization, Good Friday and Easter were the bedrock of the Christian faith, as “without them, there would be no church”.
She was not fearful of the celebration dying out.
“The church will never move away from the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Society may well move away from that; remember the Bible says men will be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God,” she said, adding that in the recent years a host of entertainment activities competed with Easter celebrations.
The result, she stressed, was that a generation was now being raised up not knowing and/or acknowledging the significance of Easter.
However, Rev. Vincent Wood, of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, said that generally speaking “it is dying out”.
“In years past, more persons flocked to church as many wanted to be associated with the rising of Christ from the dead. Today, many young people don’t see the need for going to church for Easter. Many are not embracing the values that are there in Easter,” he said.
Wood felt the church was not to blame for any fall-off.
“The church has not stopped in promoting Easter or having services.
In some instances, persons have lost respect for Sunday as a day as worship on the whole. Most of the major events – cricket, reggae festival, and so on – take place at Easter, and if the mind is not bent on serving the Lord, then people will go places where they will enjoy themselves.”
Baird said while there was more the church could do, it was also competing against the prevailing culture.
“We are working hard, but the culture is now more of entertainment and more revelry than to live a Christian life. We have to reinvent how we approach the younger generation and make the message of Easter [and church] more appealing to them.”
District Superintendent of the Wesleyan Holiness Church, Rev. Anthony Worrell, was wary, however, of the church going too far to attract the younger generation.
“I do not know [we] have to bring more entertainment in the church to attract young people. The church has to keep its message relevant. Once the modern church keeps to the basics – prayer, fasting, waiting on the Lord – God will deliver for the church,” he proclaimed.
He too, believed fingers should not be pointed at the church for fall-off in attendances as there were certain factors to be considered.
“People like to put blame on the church for everything. In the Wesleyan Church, our standards of holiness have not changed. What has changed in society is the growing tendency towards secularism. There is also the slackening off of spiritual activities within schools; and we also have the young adults who are parents today who came up in a generation that stopped going to church.”
But Worrell said there remained many Barbadians who were still very reverent in the Good Friday and Easter observance and he was not fearful that the traditions would die out. And if they ever did, “the church will die with it”.
That he doesn’t see happening.
Monsignor Vincent Blackett, of the Roman Catholic Church, said Good Friday and Easter meant different things to different people today.
“We never fully appreciate what the whole [Lenten] season means. For some people [Good Friday and Easter], is just another day. For example, when I was growing up, you would never think of going to the sea on Good Friday – it had nothing to do with Christianity but with observance of the day,” he told the SUNDAY SUN. “Just goes to show how times and thinking have changed.”
The monsignor said the church had to target families to get through to the younger generation.
“The failure of children to respond to religious activities has more to do with the family than the church,” he charged.
Methodist local preacher, Robert Cumberbatch, who is also principal of Foundation School, said while children of the primary age were involved in Easter bonnet parades with hats and eggs, those at secondary schools seldom took part
in such traditions, and some weren’t going to church.
“Speaking in the absence of statistics, I would say the percentage of youth going to Sunday School and attending church [is] diminishing. In terms of Easter, it could be through not being exposed to the idea behind Easter.
Years ago, church was the main thing at this time of year . . . but today, there are more exciting and attractive distractions for them than the Easter and church message . . . .”Cumberbatch said the school system would perhaps now have more influence in tackling such issues.
“The school may have to end up playing a bigger part, with the church having to play back-up,” he said.