Status of the Church?
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Posted Sunday, March 25, 2012 5:42 PM Post #20152

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Does anyone know - at what rate - the CS Church in the United States is contracting?

I know the number of churches closing each month was fairly high at one point, but I suspect that's slowed a lot.

Any numbers out there?
Posted Monday, March 26, 2012 11:43 AM Post #20155

Check out threads, Pud Muddle, in the section titled, "CS -- General Discussion Not Related to Doctrine." There is quite a bit of reporting on matters like church attendance, finances, and the decline of CS publications, especially the Sentinel, which is especially relevant because accurate circulation figures must be provided to the US Postal Service.

Somewhere in there is a thread called "CS By the Numbers," where contributors have tracked the number of CS branches, societies, practitioners, and teachers. You'll also learn in threads in "Principia, College Orgs....(etc)" that not only is enrollment at Principia going down, but the degree of CS compliance among the students is increasingly suspect. No question, CS is in decline.

One of the things that annoys me is that when somebody comes across an interesting item on CS in the media, a new thread is often started. There are at least a few on the Sentinel, several on hymns, and quite a few on practitioner malfeasance and/or incompetence.

Folks, when you have news or a new insight, take a look at the existing threads--you'll likely find it's relevant to one already going!
Posted Monday, March 26, 2012 10:15 PM Post #20156
The things I've noticed about the decline is that it is much more severe than many know. It is so bad that it seems before very long maybe five years or so there will be no more than 150 branch churches in the United States.
Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 6:06 AM Post #20158

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Hi Guest,

Just as followingHim has said, there has been a long discussion on this site of the decline of the CS churches: falling membership, closing churches, etc.  In fact, I, myself have often commented on these topics.

One of the best sources for the number of churches still open is Andrew Hartsook's newsletter, "The Banner" which comes out every 3 months.  The next issue is due to come out in early April.  To the best of my memory, based on the last issue, the global count was about 1,659.  This is down from the peak back in the 1950's, when the total number worldwide was 3,200.  Hartsook began his count in 1987, and since that time, well over 800 churches have closed.  His count only takes in the US churches though.  Every 3 months anywhere from 6 to 12 churches seem to close.  The most I ever remember being reported in a 3 month interval was 15.  Of course, there have been new church openings too.

As far as the actual number of members, no one today has an exact figure.  The only figure that I can recall is one from many years ago, back in 1936, from the US Census.  It was reported as 269,000.  Whatever it is today, one can be sure that it is much,much lower than the 1936 figure.  There have been conjectures on this site that it is somewhere in the range between 60,000 to 100,00.  These conjectures, I believe, were based upon an extrapolation done from the circulation of the Sentinel.

Some idea of the extent of the decline can be given from this fact:  when I was a teenager, back in the 1950's, the number of CS churches in Bergen County NJ, where I lived was 10.  Today, of these 10 churches, only 2 still remain open.  As an adult, I lived in Chicago for many years.  Back in the heyday of CS, there were 23 CS churches in Chicago.  Most of them sat over 1000.  Today, there are only 7 left.

One final comment.  Although there is definitely a severe decline in progress, I find your estimate of 150 CS churches remaining in 5 years time, to be a bit hard to believe.  I know that many of the CS branches are barely holding on, but only 150 left, I don't think so.


Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 2:03 PM Post #20161

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Brad's correct: CS is in decline to oblivion, but it'll take more than 5 years to get to only 150 churches remaining.

An Australian newspaper has a Now & Then feature that recently highlighted a Christian Science church in Melbourne:

The CS church sold that property 25 years ago and now operates from a storefront. Put 334 Glen Huntly Rd Elsternwick, Victoria 3185 into a Google Maps search to see its location.

Keep the faith!
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 9:45 AM Post #20162

Bear in mind that the numbers are just numbers, and you shouldn't read too much into them. 

Based on the current average annual rate of decline over the last 8 years (roughly -2.6%), it would take almost 76 years to reach the level of 150 CS Churches/Societies in the US.  But there are a lot of other factors other than the math that will ultimately influence this total.  Right now the numbers are still artificially high due to the persistence of multiple tiny churches which have resisted consolidation efforts in metropolitan areas.  As more of these close, there should be increasing pressure on the rest to combine their meager congregations ---just to survive a little longer.  And then there are more positive efforts to make CS more palatable to the world, watering down the more absolute statements of Mary Baker Eddy, and incorporating more universal Christian themes.  If successful, these efforts could add more years to the movement as a whole, but will fundamentally change CS as we know it. 

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:18 AM Post #20163
When I have attended CS events in recent years, nearly everyone was over 70+ years of age. I think there's going to be a steep decline in membership in the next 10-15 years. I don't think it will be a decline down to 150 churches but the approx 2.5% decline rate will increase a bit. Just my thoughts and observations.

I agree with above post about more consolidation to happen after last desparate clinging to independence by all these small churches. I drive past one that is beginning to look so "threadbare" (for lack of a better term). We live in a metro area with other CS churches fairly close by (and 1 just closed recently in neighboring town). This church is just holding on. As an outsider, I see no reason for this stubborn independence and a list of reasons to consolidate with other churches nearby. But, that would be seeing the reality of things, wouldn't it?

Watching from the sidelines
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:24 AM Post #20164
Second post. Further question. Is the "watered down" neo CS version that is the current direction of the church really bringing in new members? Would be interested in hearing from others on their observations. I don't see it around my area. The CS churches and reading rooms I'm familiar with are stocked with the same folks, a handful of senior senior citizens and a tiny number of middle agers. I don't see a growth in membership that is anticipated with the loosening of the medical and other standards. Is anyone else seeing it? Besides the occasional young family, 3rd generation and the like, is anyone seeing a significant addition of members anywhere?

I'm sorry I cannot identify where I live, wish I could do as this would spur more questions about my area and CS.

Watching from the sidelines
Posted Friday, July 26, 2013 6:09 AM Post #21755

I know and I’m prepared! Actually, this site has helped me a lot in preparing for the coming of the Son of Man. I may not be sure when and how, but with the bible verses I read here, I can confidently say that I’m ready.

--"... and peace unto you I bring"
Posted Saturday, July 27, 2013 6:01 PM Post #21757
I'll start believing that CS branch churches have a future after they start hosting more youth - including having churches sponsor troops of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc.

Like the assessment of CSists consisting primarily of "Senior Senior Citizens."
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