National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Closing doors on a community

July 2017

by Vicki Houlbrooke

When we held our last regular service at Whakatane Lutheran Church, in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand’s North Island, on Christmas Day last year, there were 16 people in attendance. LCNZ Bishop Mark Whitfield conducted our closing service on 5 February 2017 before a congregation of 33.

You may think it is a shame to close the doors on such potential, but the usual attendance at our congregation was only six. In fact, there were several weeks when only two people came. Those weeks were rather discouraging, but the liturgy was still the same. How we love the liturgy!

My husband Tony Houlbrooke and I began attending at Whakatane in 2004 and became members the following year. There would have been around 25 members at that stage, but fewer than that attended regularly.

I’m not sure why the decline is happening in some of our churches, but we have an idea that people don’t see the importance of meeting together on Sundays. When Sunday worship – word, sacrament, fellowship, witness …