By Brandon HENSLEY
St. George’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada sent out hard copies and emails of a survey to its members last fall and winter, and the results were surprising, according to Rev. Amy Pringle.
The survey questioned members of the church, who were then asked to give it to their non-believer friends and family, on topics of faith, theology and personal experiences.
“The purpose was first of all to just start a conversation, because it felt like we were living inside our four walls and not thinking too much about the people who aren’t here,” Pringle said.
But Pringle said she found some of the results “stunning.” She expected non-members to not have as much knowledge about Christianity as the members, but some of the members’ responses surprised her.
One section was about Jesus, and one question asked whether or not the person agreed that Jesus reveals who God is. Pringle said many disagreed with that notion. Other members wrote down they only believed in 11 of the 22 tenets of Christianity written on the survey.
All these months later, Pringle said St. George’s is “wondering where to start” on how to better educate people. She said the point is to not dissuade people from what they believe in, but the goal is for someone who is struggling with their faith to have a better understanding of what Pringle talks about every week, should they ever decide to walk through the church doors.
One positive thought, Pringle said, is how many people who are not of faith wanted to talk about this survey. She said many members were reluctant to approach their friends and family about this, but it turns out their fears were unwarranted.
“People wanted to talk about those things and ask questions,” Pringle said.
Pringle has met privately with non-members this year and said it has gone well.
“That was fun to do. It’s always fun to hear people’s off the cuff, spontaneous remarks,” she said.
The problem is that many stereotypes of Christianity have seeped into the minds of non-believes, Pringle said. They think of God as mean and intolerant.
“The god they describe is a god I don’t believe in either,” Pringle said.
Some have told Pringle they lost faith because certain prayers weren’t answered, such as if a loved one passed away due to an illness. But it’s hard to truly affect people going through trials like that unless churches can sit down and have personal discussions.
“If people never darken the door of a church, then I’m not really sure how that conversation happens, where we say, ‘Hey, you know, there are other ways to understand God and prayer, and faith and Jesus, and say let’s talk about that.”