Notes from Tuesday Night Lenten Meeting, March 15, 2011
Bowling and Praying Alone: The Decline of Community in American Life
(notes from Marilyn Lee)
Attending: Paul Kolbet, Edla McKertich, Kirsten & Mark Allen, Liz Angel, Valerie
Gaines, Maryellen Ward, Ralph Schinzel, Beth Brady, Mylinda Willsey, John Kintinar,
Marilyn Lee, Paula Curtis, Jacques & Alexy Boudreau, Ellie Ball, Monique Weiss
Byrnes, Amy Till
Paul Kolbet led a discussion grounded in a book written in 1995 by Robert Putnam, a
Harvard academic, called Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American
Community. Putnam details the remarkable decline since the late 1960s in participation
in local community activities such as bowling leagues, the Elks, Masons, Lions, Rotary,
4H, NAACP, pick up basketball games, etc. The result has been a dramatic decline in
“social capital,” which is defined as the emotional and practical benefits of personal
There has also been a de-stabilization of the American family since the late 1960s.
Women are less likely to be stay-at-home mothers. Two incomes are needed. Fathers
have become more involved in raising children. Moving has become more common,
meaning having local family support systems are less common. Who will bring you soup
when you are sick? Where is the support system after a job loss?
Where does the church fit into this?
Comments from attendees:
Paul: There are one or two new families/individuals joining St. Paul’s every week. How
do we meet their needs? Whether people are older, younger separated, sick, etc., they all
have needs to increase their social capital. Celebrities such as Charlie Sheen, who is
disconnected from the broader good, appear in the media. Someone such as John Finley
from the Epiphany School in Boston is unknown.
Maryellen: She liked the recent exercise with a timeline of events at St. Paul’s. She
would like to see us become more of a community center and be open for more hours, not
just when church is happening. She likes having people to lean on and to talk to about
Kirsten: She bumped into a fellow parishioner recently at Lord & Taylor who she new
only slightly, but the common connection allowed them to talk about deep issues for
about half an hour. It was a really rich and satisfying conversation.
Valerie: She likes the sermons about what is going on in the world. Your needs create
your community. People reach out. Events that you may be most ashamed of actually
advance the community. Secular society has less of a sense of the human. The movie
“The Social Network” highlighted a change in the generations.
Monique: Diversity creates vastness. We grow most around people who are different.
There are demonstrable health benefits to being part of a social group, especially a choir.
It meets social, emotional, and physical needs. St. Paul’s is not a “sit in the pews”
congregation. Doing is vital to building community.
John: Church enables people to connect from highly diverse backgrounds. We learn a lot
from people who are different from ourselves. Our humanness is basic. The differences
on top are superficial.
Ellie: At a parish retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Camp a few years ago, she was part of a
small group that asked: “What are you struggling with?” Mixing with others that she had
not known previously developed a closeness she would not have expected and that is
long-lasting. It goes beyond being in a clique.
Beth: She encouraged people to think about how technology can further our goals as a
parish. Skype is a great resource for families living apart. St. Paul’s Facebook page is an
Jacques: There is a danger of having nostalgia for the 1950s. His mom always told him:
Clean your room today and the world tomorrow.
Tuesday Night Lenten Meeting, March 15, 2011 Bowling and Praying Alone: The
Decline of Community in American Life (notes from Mylinda Willsey)
The discussion led by Paul Kolbet was based on Robert Putnam's 1995 book Bowling
Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Putnam's book documents
the decline in participation in American civic organizations including Kiwanis, the
Mason's 4H, the Rotary Club, NAACP and League of Women Voters which bind people
together socially as well as bring them together to solve social problems in the their
communities. He also referred to the The Second Shift (1988) by Arlie Hochchild and
Anne Machung for changing patterns in the roles of women as workers inside and outside
Since the 1960s, an increasingly global economy places ever growing pressure on the
American family to work harder to achieve the financial security enjoyed by previous
generations. The significance of this pressure felt by both men and women is that they
find it more difficult to build and maintain the social capital that will support them in
crisis. While they yearn for the close relationships (close ties) that provide help in every
day life they still need weak ties that bring help in the search for a new job and can be
brought to bear to solve community problems.
At the same time that families have less time to seek and maintain social relationships,
they are more likely to be mobile and less likely to live near close family members. As
two incomes are needed to support a family and men and women both work, both
partners are sharing parenting and housekeeping duties. Women still provide a large
share of parenting and maintain the home and social relationships, but both partners are
straining under their increasing work and family roles.
Paul: Men are providing more parenting at home while dealing with the expectations that
exist at work. Men are dealing with the loss of esteem associated with losing jobs and are
successfully reinventing themselves again and again.
We consume things rather than doing things (e.g., watch TV, games music performances
rather than participating in them), church activities offer many opportunities for the
family to develop relationships and help in the community.
As a culture the definition of the "Good Life" has changed from the duty to live a
virtuous life – to perfect life by contributing to the common good to seeking one’s own
Paul: A new family is joining St. Paul’s every week. What are their needs? It is people’s
needs that create community.
Maryellen: She would like to see the church provide more coverage for families – open
more hours. As a single parent she feels even more strain.
Kirsten: She recently bumped into a fellow parishioner while shopping and based on their
common connection at the church they started talking and discovered that they had many
common concerns. They discussed many issues in depth and had a rich and satisfying
Monique: We create a vastness through diversity, learn more, create a more welcoming
environment when we reach out to people different from us.
Beth: Communication tools can help us facilitate connections. We use can email to
communicate with and bring helps to others quickly. Facebook is something we can use
to provide information to the church community. Skype can help being children and
grand parents together.
Jacques: We should be careful about too much nostalgia for the 1950s. We would not
necessarily want to return, and women have made strides.
Notes from St. Paul’s Tuesday Night Lenten Gathering on 3/22/11
Jon Strand, Paul Kolbet, Paul Hasgill, Valerie Gaines, Edla McKertich, Rhiannon Agosti,
Carmen Goodridge, Doris Killam, Ralph Schinzel, Ellie Ball, Hilda Talvey, Liz Angell,
Anne & Rob Young, Joel Lemieux, Beth Strand, Jacques & Alexy Boudreau, Ed Shedd,
Hamish Blackman, Paula Hasgill, Amy & John Till, Dayana Moreno, Dan Fields, and
Jon began with a brief slideshow of pictures form the parish’s history.
Jon – Communal Practices:
- Shared leadership
- Deep hospitality
- Expansive and spirit-led
o Where is the energy?
o Where is the spirit calling us?
o Where is there disappointment? Disappoint is an opportunity for listening
and forming new ministry.
o There is companionship where we work together for that which is good.
- Full participation of children
o There is no barrier to being a full participant in Christ
o Children can incorporate reverence into their lives
- Vibrant celebration and music
o Every Sunday is a little Easter
o Celebration should have a deep sense of gratitude and celebration.
- Goal of the rector is to get out of the way
o Often surprises Jon to the good
- Episcopal tradition which has room/transparency
o At first can be confusing
o Hope is that over time everyone can participate in how we reshape our
- Conflict can be creative – lead somewhere new
o Conflict should be something we can embrace for improvement
o How is the hurt or longing in conflict a way to health for the parish?
o Listening can help the spirit to guide the way for us
o This has been a source for communal life
- Culture of engagement – all invited to serve
Jon – History DNA
- Economically diverse congregation
- Strength of women’s leadership
- Decision to be energetic parish in center of town – worker among others
o Priest is a worker among workers
- Welcoming, vibrant
- Parish moved from long period of decline in the 80s and early 90s
o Jon - During this period there was a lot of “unprocessed conflict”
o Drop Jon’s timeline in the notes if possible.
o Bishop Shaw encouraged St. Paul’s to use endowment for growth
o Welcoming by removing passive barriers
o Sorted out church school model in 1999, 2000
o 2001-2004 ran out of room for available services
o Threshold for worship is min 50%, max 80%, below min = anxiety, above
90 = not welcoming
o By providing a second service with music and church school there was no
split of the congregation between a family/non-family service
o Crated another church building in time rather than by adding space
- Church Lifecycle
- Parallel Development
o Plan for growth/rebirth while growing or stable
o Plan for the future to remain a vibrant community
Need rebirth, redefinition, or reformation
o Jon had a good slide showing the spiral image… try to get a copy of that
- Paul – What’s working? What has been responsible for our recent growth?
o Valerie - Immediately embraced and brought into ministry (LEM in April)
invited to involvement. No bottleneck to serving
o Edla – No ownership… Edla doesn’t “own” the LEMs (this is a good
o Doris – group formation for study. Mentioned Paul’s class specifically.
Small groups good for ideas. Groups seem to grow every year.
o Questionnaire sent out and responded to for small group formation… this
is great as the church responded to the request of the congregation
o Beth – small group opportunities for study and growth makes for new
things… example – women’s retreat 4 yrs ago – God wants me to do
something to help children. Out of that came the B-Safe program.
o Valerie – church is relevant to the world we live in. People share. “I have
learned more about what people do during the week than in any other
o Jon – how do we also honor people who need to be anonymous
- Jon – What do we want to see?
o Ellie – would like to see cross-generational groups
o Jon – children and youth and adults are called to allow gifts to be brought
forward… to claim power for all to be intentional about their work in the
world… the congregation can fuel the call to serve.
o Doris – people can find gifts they didn’t know they had in small groups
o Beth – There are a lot of training opportunities. Example – people who
went through the catechesis program were changed by that process.
o Rob – How to share the experiences we have. Example: experiences from
youth retreat… how to bring that back into the congregation… teaching
opportunities for non-clergy.
o Beth – how do we equip the congregation? “off the stands and onto the
o Beth – who will take on old roles and people move into new ones?
o Ed – Ralph runs a bible study on Sunday at 8:30a… usually has 3
people… “you have to have someone with a collar for a successful bible
study” at least that’s the perception.
o Hamish – gym -> must change the routine to be healthy.
Can we combine and celebrate our community outside of separate
o Amy – “social club” – no other purpose than community to meet monthly.
Adults have a chance to play together
o Beth – TCAN, Bishop’s visit, change up energy
o Ellie – music, dancing, let people mingle
o Joan/Jon – Time during retreats for more social activities
March 29, 2011
Lenten Community Tuesday Night Talk #3
Paul Kolbert, Jacques and Alexy Boudreau, Bill Lundberg, Valerie Gaines, Edla
McKertich, Carmen Goodridge, Paul Hasgill, Carolyn Hasgill, Ed Shedd, Marianne
Leonard, Ralph Schinzel, Jon Strand, Marilyn Lee, Kate Leavey, Monique Weiss-Byrnes,
Grace Kelemanik, Renee Graham, and Paula Curtis.
Paul’s framing of tonight’s topic-- how the different Christianities are responding to
current changes: Christian Fundamentalists, Roman Catholics and liberal Protestants.
Christian Fundamentalist Response
o Strategy: When you feel like everything is changing turn back to religious
traditions for a sense of stability. Bible as a point of stability. Can a shared
reading of the bible help us form a community around what we feel is lacking?
o Late 1970s rise of fundamentalists; growth of giant bible churches has peaked and
o Lack of scholarly historians to help them understand the past.
o Hard to read the bible and get a consistent reading of it when bible verses conflict.
This is a threat to their strategy for coping.
Roman Catholic Response
o Strategy: Assertion of an authority through centralized hierarchy. Find a point of
security in the church hierarchy.
o Rome provides teachings /writings on the one right way to think about “it” (e.g.
o Voice is only heard if you are in the inner circle (Pope and cardinals)
o Largest religious group in US is disenfranchised Roman Catholics
o Stuck with a strategy where only a small inner circle can be trusted to know “the
Liberal Protestants Response-- Reformation churches (e.g. Methodists, Lutheran,
Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Baptists, etc.)
o Strategy: social activism (i.e. finding agreement on social issues)
o We wrote the constitution, built this country. Civic virtues: you learnt to talk with
those that are different than you.
o A massive decline of influence in these churches. There is no longer a “middle”
in politics because Episcopal church is not in the conversation like they use to be.
o America is growing at a faster rate than the Episcopal Church, so their voice is not
o Decline – lack of spiritual renewal to rejuvenate.
o Episcopal church can do better with the bible.
o Paul thinks we’re in a good place to preserve the best of all the traditions.
Paul’s Hope: Christian Renewal needs to live into the future by taking stuff from the past
and bring it into the present and take us to a new place (vs. trying to stop the madness).
The idea could come from anywhere and make it’s way up the line.
Q. Valerie Gaines There are more conservative factions in our own church too.
Paul: The point of the Episcopal Church is it’s a place where we can have the
conversation that we have to have with people who are different than use: this leads to
change of mindset over time. We have “common” prayer even thought we multiple
Jon. I don’t think of ourselves as liberal protestant because of our deep connection of
liturgy and history, and we have these structures for making decisions.
Valerie: I’ve always liked that “reason” is part of us.
Jon: we bring scripture, tradition and reason to navigation
Paul: when change happens we bring these three perspectives to react
Jon: Some have argued these authoritarian responses (i.e. through hierarchy or scripture)
are the way to navigate. Jon hopes love, understanding, and Christ like service is the way
Paul: this authority take is really what divides us. The conversation is about authority
and politics, not religion. I’d like for us to have a stronger voice in the culture. We have
a model that allows us to grow and develop.
Valerie: love that we have the tradition of all taking communion together.
Next week: Talk about where we want to go. Jon and Paul’s favorite thing to do is to
bless the ideas others have. Come next week with your idea about where St. Paul’s
should be in 5 years.