We're on the road again, in Berkeley to visit family, so off we went to All Soul's church in North Berkeley. I've blogged before about our trips to this parish.
It's tucked amidst the pleasant homes and small apartments at the base of the Berkeley hills just north of the UC Berkeley campus. This is one vibrant community, with lots of young families as well as many older people; the church was absolutely packed on this average Sunday with tons of kids. Our regular venue, St Paul's Cathedral in San Diego, is also full, but as a downtown church in an urban district, its members have a different demographic --not many young families live in downtown San Diego--and of course its style of worship appeals to us in a different way. But the full seats at St Paul's and All Souls' makes it clear that predictions of a dying church are greatly exaggerated.
Of course there is one demographic missing from most churches, whether Episcopal or not, and that's the late teens/young adults. I've decided that whether by design or accident, young adults give themselves a rumspringa with regard to faith matters. It's one of the reasons I feel very strongly that kids should be raised in a religious tradition; I think having that structure as a familiar is important, so that they have something to rebel against, as well as something to which they can return. Kids without familiarity are much more at risk, I've always thought, and much more vulnerable to bad choices and bad companions.
True, I'm not sure what gives All Souls such vibrancy. We've been in very nice, friendly local parishes elsewhere that are clearly struggling to fill the pews. All Souls is in a very established community and has been there for over 100 years, but there's nothing staid or complacent there. If we lived in Berkeley, we'd be happy to be part of it. Still, I must admit that I miss the incense and the English polyphony of the Cathedral service to which we will return next week.