Ottawa Citizen

ASK THE RELIGION EXPERTS

Question: Many western Christian churches have increasing­ly become aimed at meeting the needs of women and children. What, if anything, is your church/religion doing to attract and keep men coming to your church?

- RADHIKA SEKAR PAT POWERS JACK MCLEAN ABDUL RASHID RICK REED REUVEN BULKA JAMES CHRISTIE

A:

This question implies that the male population is showing signs of dwindling in our congregati­ons. This is not our experience at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica.

There is an across-the-board increase in people who speak both official languages and are of both sexes and every age: families with young children, young adults, university-aged people as well as those who are 20 to 80 and beyond. We are preoccupie­d with meeting the needs of all the people who have joined our community over the past few years.

There are many ways to accomplish this, but the most basic one is by gathering all who have responded to the Lord’s call to come together to celebrate all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of ecclesial life. Men, women

On the contrary, the male/female participat­ion ratio in Hindu institutio­ns has always been more or less equal. Of course there are those who do not participat­e or frequent temples, either here or in India, but temple participat­ion has never been mandatory for Hindus. While temples have always been a hub of social and religious life, significan­t not only for religious elements but also for the elements of culture, society and education, most devout Hindus have puja rooms or home altars for private worship.

A temple’s activities are not divided according to according to gender. Religion is primarily a family activity and many rites require the presence of both spouses.

Apart from the cultural activities that are sponsored on its premises, such as music and dance perfor-

If it is true that in the West, unlike the Middle or Far East, men have defaulted from religion, I suggest it is perhaps because they fear their own divine feminine, and have split it off from their integral self.

Similarly, some women fear and have not known how to integrate their divine masculine. They have, strangely, become overly masculine as a result.

When women and men recognize, fully integrate and exchange both socalled male and female qualities, the question of making special appeals to either sex will have become irrelevant.

Full partnershi­p and co-operation will become the norm. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá underscore­d this necessary, dependent reciprocit­y between the sexes: “As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilit­ies, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs.” mance, temples in India are also an important source of employment and economic activity. They hire priests, garland makers, suppliers of ghee, milk, oil, rice, fruits, sandal-paste and incense.

A famous detailed account made in 1011 of the people supported by the Rajarajaes­wara temple at Tanjore listed 600 people in total, including singers, drummers, conch-blowers, accountant­s, parasol bearers, lamp-lighters, sprinklers of water, potters, carpenters, astrologer­s, tailors and jewellers. A staff of 6,000 serves at the Sri Tirumalai Devasthana­m in Tirupati (India), which sees an estimated 30,000 devotees every day.

The four Hindu institutio­ns in Ottawa also provide the local Hindu population a venue for religious, cultural and charitable activities, but obviously on a much smaller scale. While some temples do have separate volunteer committees for women, there are no similar committees exclusive to men, and so far there has been no need for them. and children answer the divine call to worship where we both celebrate and receive our identity. Just as there is a diversity of gifts, roles and ministries in the Church’s life at large, a similar diversity of gifts and roles is celebrated and expressed in the liturgy that supports our prayer. Here, every member is touched in different ways: The most fundamenta­l liturgical ministry belongs to those gathered as they render praise and thanksgivi­ng to the Lord and offer the gift of sanctifica­tion to the people of God.

People of all sexes and ages have a deep-rooted need to be part of the Church.

Herein, with the Lord, we mark the events of human life: birth, membership in a community, nourishmen­t, commitment, restoratio­n of broken relationsh­ips, the recognitio­n of our mortality — and so on. In each of these moments, we come to life in Christ and deepen our relationsh­ip with him and each other. This, then, spills out into all our other communal activities. Gender is rarely a factor in our membership.

People are not only physical and spiritual beings, they are also social beings. Religion not only satisfies our spiritual needs, it also enriches our social life. The Holy Koran tells us: “He (God) created death and life that He may test which of you is best in conduct” (67:2).

A religion is more than a set of beliefs and worships. It motivates us to A:

Father’s Day weekend is a great time to underscore the crucial role that men play in the home and in the church. The Bible clearly teaches that both men and women were created in God’s image ( Genesis 1:27) and share equally in the salvation given to all who trust in Christ ( Galatians 3:2829). Still, God calls men to provide godly leadership in their marriages ( Ephesians 5:23), families ( Ephesians

Frankly, I do not understand your question.

Why would aiming at meeting the needs of women and children discourage men from attending the place of worship? Are you suggesting that men by definition feel alienated if their children’s needs, or their wive’s needs, or other women’s needs, are being met. Do not men gain from all these needs being met?

After all, men need their children’s needs to be met, so they would understand that this by definition extends to

Christiani­ty (and for that matter Islam) was in its origins a radically inclusive religious movement.

Not only were Jesus and his disciples regularly chastised for keeping the company of “gluttons and winebibber­s” and tax collectors and other unsavoury sorts, but women were welcomed as equals among the disciples and in the leadership of the early churches. Children were always welcomed in the assemblies, and infant baptism was inaugurate­d to emphasize that the Kingdom of God held no truck with any kind of discrimina­tion. strive not only for our own well-being but also of those around us. By participat­ing in the religious services in a church or a mosque or a synagogue, we extend and broaden our nuclear family of blood and marriage, first to our brothers and sisters in faith and then to the human race.

Before the phenomenon of mass urbanizati­on and consequent mobility of people, churches, mosques and synagogues were more than simply worship places. In fact, they formed the hub of the society around them. They still play that role in smaller communitie­s. In urban centres, however, these have become primarily locales of worship. More often than not their activities tend to revolve around either worship or theology. 6:4) and in the church ( 1 Timothy 3:1).

Our church seeks to attract and keep men in a number of ways. We begin by calling men into a life-changing relationsh­ip with Jesus. We help them see that following Christ will challenge and change them for the better.

We encourage men to develop authentic and accountabl­e friendship­s with other men by forming small “bands of brothers” that meet regularly for spiritual support. Over the past several years, a growing number of men have taken part in one of these small groups. The impact of these groups has been remarkable; many men are finding new levels of personal wholeness.

We also seek to develop men by getting them active in service. Men grow stronger as they help others. We have the needs of other children who are not their children. And the same equation pertains to women, including the women who are not their wives, but who, by having their needs met, will be better suited to relate to men.

And on a more mundane level, if a congregati­on succeeds in attracting many women to come to services, you can rest assured that the men will come running.

You must therefore be referring to needs of women and children that are contrary to the needs of men, who thereby feel alienated from their place of worship. Pray tell me what these might be. Are they teaching women to hate men? Are they teaching children to hate men? What could they be doing that alienates men?

Limping along with the failure to understand the basis for your question, I will try to respond. Our congre-

From an Islamic point of view, belief and worship are doorways to behaviour — to join hands benefits each other and humanity at large. This applies to men and women. Therefore, one way to attract more people of both sexes and of all ages to these worship houses will be to involve people in projects that interest them and that have social benefits. These do not have to be large, nationwide or worldwide projects. In fact, smaller multiple projects will probably attract different but overall larger numbers. These projects could be, in fact should be, anchored on faith. occasional workdays where men (and their sons) use their hands-on skills to serve those in need.

In the coming year, we’ll host a regional Promise Keepers event. This weekend conference will rally men for inspiratio­n and instructio­n, equipping them to live with integrity and excellence in all arenas of life.

Our church also places a big emphasis on attracting and keeping women. The leaders of the women’s ministries have been extremely supportive of our efforts to develop a focused ministry to men. These women realize that as men become what God wants them to be, our homes, communitie­s and churches all benefit. gation certainly does not target any specific group to the exclusion of another group. Obviously, the programs for children would not be appropriat­e for adults, and many adult programs would not interest the kids. But the adult programs are usually friendly for all genders, the children's programs are designed for the children’s maximum pleasure and developmen­t.

In closing, with all the difficulty I have in understand­ing your question, it is clear that something is bothering you. It helps us all if we renounce the gender war mentality, and realize that what is good for women is good for men. As a wit once put it, a nation without women is a stag-nation! Jesus and Paul — read Paul’s letters,

other way. In one Toronto church renot those attributed to him, and espe-

cently, it was made quite clear that the cially the 16th chapter of Romans —

female minister concurred with the relied heavily on women as comrades

Meg Ryan character in the film French on the “Way.”

Kiss: “All men are bastards.” Mary of Magdala was really the first

Paul wrote that “in Christ there is Apostle, the Apostle to the male Apos-

neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, tles, on the first Easter. Priscilla and male nor female.” Lydia were among the architects of Until we take him seriously, neither the churches in Corinth, Rome and

men nor women will be entirely at Ephesus.

home anywhere in the church univerBut cultural traditions are hard to sal. overcome, and within but a couple of generation­s, women were once again being consigned to secondary roles as patriarchy re-emerged.

It took until the latter half of the last century for that ludicrous imbalance to be even modestly addressed in but the minority of Christian traditions.

There is the problem. In much of the Christian world sexual equality remains unlikely; Benedict XVI has made that unmistakab­ly clear.

In consequenc­e, some traditions, my own included, occasional­ly swing the

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