We Aren't Dying Yet: Identity, Belonging and the Atrophied Church
Quist, Crystal M.
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The objective of this research project is to better understand how personal and social identities are tied to a church in a state of atrophy. The study takes a close look into a church that the community believes has no option but to close. I will discuss how a church is not dying unless the congregation identifies itself as dying, and has begun closure preparations. I found that a more precise terminology is needed for a church that is in-between its peak of prosperity and the decision to close and I have proposed the term, “atrophy.” A church in a state of atrophy is at a crossroads; if the church continues on its current path, it will end up dead, but if the church has the resources to stay open, and its members share the hope that they can overcome the hardship as well as the will to take the steps necessary to regain church health because their personal and social identities are deeply intertwined with their church membership, it is not dying. Like an atrophied muscle, it can regain strength and function independently once again.