The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate the number of Australians identifying as Christian is dropping; 50 years ago it was 88 percent, but the figures from the 2016 Census put the current figure at 52 percent.
Despite this, many churches will experience a significant increase in numbers attending religious services during the Christmas period.
Reverend Christy Capper, Director of Missiology Theology at Flinders University, says she welcomes people celebrating Christmas together.
“I love seeing people show up at Christmas. Theologically, it’s one of the most interesting exciting times of the year, and we celebrate that God would become human. To me, that’s an amazing concept,” she says.
While many people don’t attend church at any other time of the year, Reverend Capper sees the full pews of Christmas services as an opportunity to connect with the wider community and wants every parishioner to feel welcome.
“Perhaps some ministers are a bit frustrated that people only show up at church at Christmas and Easter, but I think it’s a good thing. Everyone has so much to do at Christmas, I think it’s great that people can fit in a church service as well.
“It’s a good opportunity to celebrate together too, and I don’t think we do enough of that as a society. It’s an amazing thing to be part of, with people from different cultures coming together for the same reason, and people really love the carols,” Reverend Capper says.
For those who might find the festive season difficult – through the loss of a loved one or other personal circumstances – churches can also offer respite through what has been termed ‘Blue Christmas’ services.
“These services cater for people for people who don’t find Christmas a time of joy; it could be their first Christmas without a significant person.
“It’s often such a hard time for people, and they don’t have to attend a service where everyone else is really happy,” Reverend Capper says.
And for those who rarely attend church, Reverend Capper says she looks forward to seeing them at a service soon.
“We welcome people at any time of year – it doesn’t have to be Christmas or Easter,” she says.
Flinders University offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the areas of biblical studies, systematic and historical theology, and ministry studies in association with the Adelaide College of Divinity. The ACD is an ecumenical college which includes Uniting College for Leadership & Theology (the theological college of the Uniting Church), with academics drawn from a wide range of denominations.
Classes are held mainly at the ACD Campus at Brooklyn Park, which houses the colleges and the Adelaide Theological Library.
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