Report from Louisiana: Church

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I grew up in the Episcopal church; I went to Sunday School, was confirmed, sang in the choir, the whole thing. As I got older, and busier, and my focus became diverted in the wrong directions sometimes, I quit going. And when you stop going to church on Sunday, it’s really hard to get back in the swing of it.

For a variety of reasons, my husband believes “the end times are upon us,” or very near, and so he wanted to start going back to church. He’s not crazy or a zealot – he’s just retired and has a lot of time on his hands where he reads too much social media. If that won’t convince you that the devil is knocking on the door, nothing will.

Long story short, we have been attending services at the church where I grew up for the past several weeks, and I’ve found that I am actually enjoying it. Part of my reluctance about returning to St. Paul’s was not the church itself, but the memories within. So many of the people I loved that I share memories with there are gone…my mother, my godmother, my godfather, various members of the congregation, some favorite Sunday school teachers, the exuberant piano player who led us in song in the children’s choir….

And the memories have been hard to face. So many Christmases in that church, red poinsettias lining the altar. The traditional Christmas songs.

I get so sentimental this time of year anyway, and returning to the stomping grounds of my youth have been…challenging, but so worth it.

I’m making new memories there, remembering happy times, and I know those I miss so much would be glad I am there. And in a way, they are there with me, still.

One thing I’ve noticed, I’ve been so shocked at how low the attendance numbers are compared to what I remember. Obviously part of this is because of the pandemic, but I know just from the church directory that just came out that numbers are nowhere near what I remember. Is this the case everywhere? Do people not go to church anymore? I live in the South where pretty much everyone is either a Baptist or a Catholic, and I can say for certain that the Baptist church that I pass on the way to the Episcopal church is packed with cars.

I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, I guess. Maybe people stay home and do church on the internet.

Side note: the first Sunday my husband and I attended, about four weeks ago, our Rector announced his retirement later this year and the formation of the Rector Search Committee. I was really sad, because he’s been there for decades and is very popular.

The next Sunday, literally the next week, the bright, young, Assistant Rector announced that he has been transferred to another church; he and his family are being sent to Texas.

So. We were sort of scared to go back on week three, because….who else would be leaving?! But, things have been quiet since then and nobody else has hit the door.

Y’all have a good week, enjoy the Christmas season, and don’t get bogged down in the little stuff.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

2 thoughts on “Report from Louisiana: Church

  1. To answer your question, yes church attendance is way down. I’m the lay leader of a small Methodist church and the covid has cut our attendance (and offerings) by about half. I’m hoping that it will increase again when the virus wanes. We are such a small and technologically backward congregation who values the traditional liturgy and experience, so we hardly do anything on the Internet.

  2. Brings back memories. Good ones mostly. My father was an Episcopal priest, and one of my favorite times was serving an his acolyte when he said mass on Wednesday mornings. It was not unusual for it to be just the two of us, which was why my presence was mandatory; he could not say mass alone. I didn’t mind at all, as it was a time of closeness which we both treasured.

    I think it was in the 1960s, shortly after I got out of the Navy, that the Episcopal Church went through a change. New prayer book, new format for the mass, all that. It eliminated any trace of humility from the practice of religion. Humility was uncomfortable, and religion was supposed to comfort. I found it arrogant and un-Christian and left.

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