The long, wooden outdoor tables that were used for "dinner on the grounds" at rural church buildings on special occasions have now been replaced by swanky air conditioned fellowship halls, and KFC …
The long, wooden outdoor tables that were used for "dinner on the grounds" at rural church buildings on special occasions have now been replaced by swanky air conditioned fellowship halls, and KFC does the rooster killing and cooking. Marbles are no longer shot on the outside grounds, as my father was doing when he met my mother outside a church building, but in many church buildings a state of the arts gym offers a place to play almost any indoor sport. If transportation is needed to attend services, a church van or bus will provide a ride. A long walk to and from church services would surly have an adverse effect on attendance in today's age.
Whereas fresh cut flowers adorned the graves being decorated in church cemeteries when I was young, artificial flowers have largely taken their place. Backhoes and machines now do the work of digging a grave, replacing picks and shovels which were once used. Funerals that once were conducted in church buildings are now generally held in funeral parlors, and graveside services are less common. Cremation continues to increase in popularity with a memorial service, if any, conducted to remember the deceased.
The plights of small country churches are very different than the ones in a metropolitan area. Many have closed their doors and the building tom down or converted into community halls or businesses. With many others, their cemeteries are the threads that keep their doors open. There are some that have never attended regular church services anywhere except the home church in which they were raised, with attached cemeteries in which the family has been buried for generations. These congregants will continue to attend in these buildings until the last member joins the others in the cemetery, after which the doors will be locked, to be opened only when the young who moved away return yearly for the homecomings and decorations. With many of these surviving congregations, the young have resettled in other areas and only the elderly remain to carry on. Unless a revival of interest can be restored in these congregations, which is unlikely, and there be those young enough to replace the elderly members, it will be only a matter of time before their doors are locked except for that special Sunday of each year when family shall return to decorate the graves and honor the dead who had once made the place a vibrant one where they assembled and worshiped God, and they too had decorated the graves of their ancestors. For one Sunday each year the walls my ring again with singing, and perhaps a sermon preached. Those in attendance will socialize and declare what a great day it has been. the artificial flowers will then be left to fade, and some blown away by the wind, many times almost forgotten until next year's calendar reminds them that it is time to do it again. How long and how many cycles and generations will this continue until forest and weeds rule the area is unknown. One thing is certain, if the next eighty years follows the example of the past eighty, it might not be forest and weeds that will replace the beloved cemeteries, but roads, buildings,. or industries that will occupy that treasured land. In the past eighty years strip mining has also been a culprit, leaving vast areas unrecognizable. Sometimes graves are moved to allow the area to be stripped. Many also wonder if religion itself, as we know it, will be recognizable. If the trend continues that relegates religion as being for those ignorant enough to take an old outdated book and make it the center of their lives, and a stand is not made in its defense, there might be a landscape of deserted church buildings, or maybe those turned into historical museums, so that the populous can see what once was.
The messages coming from the pulpits today are preached more to appease the audience than to teach Biblical lessons. The time when there were "hell fire and damnation" preachers has long passed. The idea that there is a devil has largely been ignored and the word "hell" is only used in profanity. People are no longer responsible for their actions, and a lot of fault is placed on extenuating circumstances, whatever that might be. Religion has become more of a social organization where, often, the teachings of the Bible have been relegated to the status of an unimportant book destined to remain unopened on the shelf where it has become covered with dust. Some preachers have used religion to better themselves financially by using radio and television as a means to ask for donations, which are sometimes used only for personal gain. This practice has a detrimental effect on those who are sincere in their religious efforts. Radio, television and print media, when used properly, can now be an effective way to reach the people. This is an advantage that was not available when I was young. I am aware that this has been painted this with a broad brush, and there are variances in difference aspects of this subject. I am merely stating what my observations have been in comparison to what I remember Bible teachings to be in my formative years.