April 06, 2004 | Jeff Wall

Will this Easter be any different

THE unprecedented publicity Passion of the Christ has given to the Easter story provides a unique opportunity for the Christian churches to use this Easter to begin the reversal of the worrying decline in attendances, and, with few exceptions, church membership.
But how many of our churches, and our church leaders, will take up this opportunity? Or perhaps even more importantly, how many know how to skilfully use the multi-media resources available today?
I was brought up in an era in which the Easter, and Christmas, messages from the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops of Brisbane were almost compulsory viewing or listening. In recent times, the coverage of these messages has been minimal at best.
One Anglican Diocese where attendances are on the rise is Sydney. There is no doubt the high profile, and controversial, Archbishop, Dr Peter Jensen, has contributed to this, even though I for one am troubled by his intolerance on some key issues.
Equally, the outspoken, and equally controversial, leadership of George Cardinal Pell has given the Catholic Church in Sydney a higher public profile.
Passion of the Christ ought to be a marketing dream for churches struggling for relevance in an increasingly secular society. It also ought help balance the appalling image some churches have gained as a result of the mishandling of child sex abuse issues over a long period.
Our churches do much good in the community. Nowhere is this good more evident than it is in the care and support clergy, and laity, offer to the sick and suffering, those facing death, and their families. But all the good that is being done never receives anywhere near the coverage the evil acts of abusers do.
The challenge for the churches this Easter is to add the triumph of the resurrection, and its message of hope for Christians, to the passion and death of Christ that today is probably thought about more than it has ever been, even among non-believers and those with tenuous links with Christianity and the Church.
The doubts about the Churches fuelled by sex abuse and other issues remain. But the chance to rebuild the standing of the Churches in the community, and the life of the nation, has certainly been enhanced by Passion of the Christ.
In the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Centre outrage, I noticed a rise in church attendances, especially by young people. But the highly unfavourable coverage given to the mishandling of sex abuse by the churches undoubtedly turned some of those searching for answers, and even some regular worshippers, away.
It will be interesting to see whether this Easter attendances rise, and, perhaps, just as importantly, whether the secular media give the Easter story wider coverage than normal – and that would not be hard to do!
It will be even more interested in how church leaders articulate the Easter message – whether they make the most of a unique opportunity, or fail the test once again.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 10:33 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Its a very sick church that would rely on a sado-masochistic snuff movie as a recruiting tool.
    My advice would be to run as fast you can from such a church/religion.
    I much prefer a Religion which has as its message this quote:
    “Happiness is the now-and-forever Mystery that IS the Real Heart and the Only Real God of every one.
    I am the “Bright” Teacher of Happiness—the Ruchira Avatar, Adi Da Samraj, the Divine Heart-Master of all and All”
    To find out more please check out:
    John Forth

    Comment by John Forth — April 8, 2004 @ 1:15 pm

  2. Understanding religion is now necessary for understanding our present world. Religion has now replaced ideology as a major and dominating factor in society. For generations now in the West we thought the role of religion was becoming peripheral, if not redundant. We had no idea that both Christianity and Islam would take hold so strongly in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
    This lack of understanding is a major reason for the USA Government’s failure to undestand the nature of islam in Iraq.
    The growth of fundamentalism – whether Christian or Muslim will become the dominant paradigm of the 21st Century.
    it is also interesting that in the West, increasing number of young people are turning to fundamentalist religions in their search for meaning and security.

    Comment by Brendan O'Dwyer — April 13, 2004 @ 4:34 pm

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