With dwindling attendances and a declining belief in their relevance in the community, local churches could be expected to experience a major crisis in the next few years.
Although current census figures indicate that 70 per cent of Boorowa residents are affiliated with a religion identified by the three local churches (Catholic, Anglican and Uniting), that proportion of the population is not represented by current attendance figures.
An additional concern is that the large proportion of elderly people within the current practising parishioners at each of the local churches would suggest that in five to ten years time attendances could shrink to an unacceptable level.
This possibility raises the question of how normal worship commitments might be delivered and ongoing care and maintenance of buildings continued.
Most affiliates would regard the possibility of the closure of any of the three churches unthinkable, yet a considerable proportion of existing churches in Australia, particularly country Australia, are being decommissioned and sold, for conversion into homes, holiday accommodation and conference centres.
If attendances at any of the local churches reach crisis levels, there may be no other option but to disperse assets which are considered to be surplus to requirements.
Although attendances are low, the local church institutions are still highly valued in an historical sense, and in their connection to Boorowa families over many generations.
The local churches are utilised for services such as baptisms, marriages and funerals, but few families have an ongoing commitment to the life of the church community.
Research has shown that a large percentage of Australians now regard churches as ‘irrelevant,’ do not accept church teaching or do not believe church doctrine.
While many might have respect for the presence of a ‘higher power,’ more people than ever seem to be unsure of what they actually believe.
This situation will contribute to a major crisis which local churches may well face within a few short years.
[Derrick Mason is a parishioner of St John’s Anglican Church, Boorowa. The opinions expressed in this article are entirely his own and not necessarily those of local church communities or of this newspaper]