Gone are the days when many of us who are devoted to parish life could advertise local congregations as surviving forums in the "town meeting" tradition. Almost nowhere else could people of different social, political and economic positions so readily bump into each other. In faith-full congregations they could unite in dealing with eternal questions and be free to agree — or disagree — with each other on temporal issues.
We used to advertise this feature because having a forum where people who know each other but might differ with each other, who could hear each other and be free to speak, is meet and right if not fully salutary. There were good American and good Christian reasons for helping such gatherings and meeting places survive and thrive.
As of 2004, however, tear down the advertisements. According to all surveys, media reports and impressions that people gather by personal experience, such settings are extreme rarities today. Bill Bishop in the Austin [Texas] American-Statesman (July 25) climaxed a series of articles on "The Great Divide" in American politics with a story that claimed the greatest political divisions existed among congregations but not within them.
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