Tags: 9/11 | Inspires | Renewed | Faith | God

9/11 Inspires Renewed Faith in God

Sunday, 10 September 2006 12:00 AM

In the aftermath of 9/11, stunned and grieving Americans filled churches and synagogues seeking comfort and meaning in the face of such unspeakable evil. At the time, many religious leaders were convinced that the terror tragedy would spark a nationwide religious reawakening.

Franklin Graham, son of renowned evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, acclaimed it as an enduring turn toward God, while Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson declared that the attack was "bringing about one of the greatest spiritual revivals in the history of America."

"People are turning to God," Robertson declared. "The churches are full."

And indeed they were. From megachurches to neighborhood houses of worship, pews were packed. For example, on the Sunday after Sept. 11, more than 20,000 worshippers - up from the usual 14,500 - showed up to worship at Dallas' Fellowship Church, according to Senior Pastor Ed Young.

Other churches reported much higher attendance as well.

For Jews, the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur began on Sept. 14 that year. "We did see a larger influx for the holidays, and the mood was very intense," said Rabbi Ronald S. Roth of the West End Synagogue in Nashville, Tenn.

"After the attack, millions of nominally churched or generally irreligious Americans were desperately seeking something that would restore stability and a sense of meaning to life," said Barna. The post-9/11 spike in attendance at churches and synagogues was short-lived, however.

"It lasted for a few weeks, and that was it," said Robert Wuthnow, director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University

Within two months of 9/11, studies showed that U.S. church attendance had returned to pre-9/11 levels, leading researchers to conclude that the return to a more spiritually based America was a statistical blip, rather than a revival.

Now, however, there is new evidence that some of the spiritual reverberations of 9/11 may have slipped under the radar screen altogether. There are indications that many Americans responded to 9/11 with smaller gatherings, finding comfort in less formal groups, with services often conducted in private residences.

That news suggests that, despite the lackluster statistics on church attendance, many Americans indeed have undergone a spiritual renewal since 9/11, the ramifications of which are only now beginning to be noticed.

According to a Barna Group study, more and more Americans are finding spiritual fulfillment in "house churches." The new study, based on interviews with more than 5,000 adults nationwide, found that 9 percent regularly attend a house church - up from just 1 percent in recent years.

By projecting those figures, the Barna Group now estimates that some 20 million adults attend a house church gathering every week.

"The house church now appears to have reached 'critical mass' in the United States," said Barna, whose new book,

He explained: "Analysts typically find that once a new [method or approach] reaches 15 percent market penetration, and has a consistent or growing level of affirmation for at least six years, it shifts from fad to trend status. At that point, it becomes a permanent fixture in our society. Today, house churches are moving from the appraisal phase into the acceptance phase."

It is estimated that there are as many as 30,000 house churches in the United States already, and many observers attribute the growth in part to the 9/11 attacks and the ongoing uncertainties regarding the war on terror. Many Americans, they say, are seeking a more close-knit religious experience, gathering in intimate, informal settings that often include a shared meal.

Barna predicted that house church attendees "will adopt the house church as their primary faith community. These are people who are less interested in attending church than in being the church."

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In the aftermath of 9/11, stunned and grieving Americans filled churches and synagogues seeking comfort and meaning in the face of such unspeakable evil. At the time, many religious leaders were convinced that the terror tragedy would spark a nationwide religious...
9/11,Inspires,Renewed,Faith,God
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2006-00-10
Sunday, 10 September 2006 12:00 AM
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