New England, as evidenced by the countless old (and usually beautiful) churches scattered throughout the region, was once home to communities with a vibrant faith life.
A recent study by Barna, however, shows just how far removed the days of following faith have become. Eight cities in particular in the Northeast and New England cracked the top of the Barna Groups yearly most “post-Christian” cities list.
Among the cities on the list were: Springfield-Holyoke, Portland-Auburn, Maine; Providence, Rhode Island; New Bedford, Massachusetts; Burlington, Vermont; Boston, Massachusetts; Manchester, New Hampshire.
Springfield-Holyoke in Western Massachusetts was number one on the list due to the fact that about 60 percent of its residents said they “never made a commitment to Jesus,” and another 65 percent “had not attended a Christian church in the last six months.” A staggering 87% in the town said they had not read the Bible over the course of the past week.
In an interview with Christianity Today, Pastor Michael Kriesel discussed the findings:
“It doesn’t surprise us,” said Michael Kriesel, lead pastor at Vibrant Church in South Burlington, which moved up from fifth to fourth on the list over the past two years. “It’s hard to get people to go to church in New England.”
For years, Michael Kriesel, and his wife and assistant pastor, Diana Kriesel, have relied on the Barna findings to help focus their church’s mission and ministry in the Burlington area. According to the 2019 research, 59 percent of people in their city meet the designation for “post-Christian.”
Instead of shying away from the locals because of the statistics, they’ve used the research from Barna as a tool in ministering to the community around them.
“It becomes a mission field…the prayer of the Northeast: Lord, wake up New England,”’ Kriesel told CT.
The findings should come as little surprise, given Barna’s recent study showing the most Biblically literate cities/towns in America. According to that survey, Chattanooga was tops for putting Bible upfront in their lives, while New England barely registered a blip on the radar, with New Haven narrowly cracking the top 100.
(h/t Christianity Today)