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The Easter Economy

By Dian Vujovich

In the 30-something years of my off-and-on attendance at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, I’ve never seen a bigger crowd than the one that gathered for the 11 o’clock Easter service on Sunday. There had to be 700 people in the place.

I’ve heard the church itself holds 500. By 10:45ish, the pews were filled and doors closed. To accommodate everyone, there was seating for about 200 more in the building a terrace away where worshipers got to attend the service via a TV-like video screen set up. Add it up and the tally for those rising for this holiest of holy days at BBTS numbered, well, lots.

Had a late afternoon lunch at Abe & Louie’s in Boca with a friend who said she hadn’t seen her Catholic church more crowded than it was Easter morning and another friend said he attempted to take his mom to her church, also a Catholic one, and that there was no parking available for blocks. They decided to skip the service.

I couldn’t help wonder why so many attended Easter services this year. Could it be because of the economy, those without jobs or under-employed, our government’s new hand in things like bailouts, mortgage programs, or health care? Or could it be because this year’s Easter day was a particularly stunning one. And, the first weekend in a season of unseasonably cold weather that simply brought everyone out?

Or maybe there is some kind of positive collective unconsciousness going on that was ignited because of spring, Passover plus this year both the Christian and Orthodox calendar celebrated Easter on the same day?

To try to figure it all out, I searched the Internet looking for church-going habits and the economy. A March 12, 2009 story in USA Today, for instance, titled, “Church attendance flat as economy falls” sited a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life research that found, “While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has shed over half its value since October 2007, there has been no increase in weekly worship service attendance during the same time period…”

Another used data from a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that interviewed 1,000 people and found:”The economy, while having such drastic effects in so many other aspects of life, has no statistically measurable impact on how important religion is in people’s lives or in their church attendance…. Week after week, no matter how wretched the stock market or how high rates for home foreclosures and unemployment claims rise: About 42% say they go to church at least weekly, 12% go monthly; 26% go seldom and 20% never go….”

Some of that sounded a little counter-intuitive to me so I keep on searching and low-and-behold I found a story from FOX news posted February 22, 2009– a month earlier than the two previously mentioned. Its title, ” Church attendance rises during recession.”

The story was about Mount Herbon Church in Trinity Gardens, Alabama. It’s congregation made up of predominately African-Americans.

From that piece came this little bit of financial advice, “…A good budget along with faith will help the congregation weather whatever the economy brings…”

Whatever your faith or non-faith, don’t forget that ‘good budget’ part. It’s essential for wealth accumulation.

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