Opinion

New series will provide a look into many faith communities | Editorial

On Sunday mornings on Vashon, you won’t run into any traffic jams caused by Islanders on their way to church.

According to a new study, the state of Washington ranks 45th in the nation in terms of church attendance, with approximately one in three residents reporting an affiliation with a church or other place of worship.

Here on Vashon, we suspect the figure is much lower. Last week, we called Island churches to ask about their average weekly attendance and found that only about 1,000 people fill the pews of our local churches each week.

So why is The Beachcomber embarking on “Finding Faith,” a series of profiles of faith communities on Vashon?

It’s not our goal to increase church attendance, though we certainly hope the series does nothing to discourage it. Faith is an important part of the fabric of any community, but churches play an especially important role on Vashon. Isolated on a ferry-dependent island lacking local government, many Islanders rely on a social safety net provided by such groups as the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness and St. John Vianney’s Society of St. Vincent DePaul.

Church members also take stands on important issues. In October, the Vashon Unitarian Fellowship joined with seven other faith communities to present a gathering in support of same-sex marriage. A group of local Methodists placed an ad in The Beachcomber in support of the Referendum 74, while an opposing group of conservative Christians placed their own ad in response.

Our church buildings are also important, multi-purpose public places. Performing arts events are often staged at the Methodist Church, Bethel Church and Havurat Ee Shalom. The large social hall of the Presbyterian church is the site for many community gatherings. Sooner or later, most Islanders will find themselves sitting in a pew, somewhere on Vashon, for a wedding, funeral or holiday service.

Island churches also tell us much about Vashon’s past. Indeed, the heritage museum is housed in what once was the Island’s Lutheran church, built in 1907. When St. Patrick’s Church, built in 1923, was recently demolished in Dockton, many Islanders who hadn’t been to church in years lamented the passing of an era.

And so, we thought it would be interesting to find out what makes each of the churches on Vashon tick. What theology is espoused from the pulpits? What specific roles do each of the churches play in the community? And perhaps the most interesting question of all — what keeps the Island faithful going to church, week after week, when so many of their friends and neighbors are staying home?

We’ll be running our “Finding Faith” series on an occasional basis. Readers may note that the first two churches we’ve profiled in the series — the Mormon church and Bethel Church — have conservative theologies. Stay tuned and have faith — there is more to come in a series that we hope will provide a broad overview of faith communities of all kinds on Vashon.

 

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