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Sunday Mornings at Church?  Or Sunday Mornings at Starbucks?

After 25 years in the same house, my wife and I are relocating a dozen miles to the suburban west.  And yes, as you might imagine, after a quarter-century of compiling and then piling stuff, the move continues to fluctuate between hideous and hell, not that I’ve deciphered which is worse.  Yet to be fair as well as grateful, interspersed have been times of sweet relief and thanks, as when people from the church where my wife, the Reverend McGowan, is the deacon, help big time.

I mention this because I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about community, in part because I’ve been asked to speak to a convention of first-generation Americans about building strong ones.  A main theme will be that while a certain amount of political influence and clout are important for most any group to have, ultimately more important is the vitality of the “little platoons” Edmund Burke wrote about more than two centuries ago.  The “mediating structures” Michael Novak and others wrote about last century.  And the “founding virtues” Charles Murray simultaneously celebrated and mourned in Coming Apart this century.  Among which in all three instances are churches, synagogues and other religious institutions as high-beam cultural struts.

Yet as various surveys and other studies routinely show, while large proportions of Americans still claim to be “spiritually” animated, fewer are animated to show up in houses of worship on a regular basis.  This is especially true of Millennials.  For them, “institutional” religion, in the main, is less important than it was for their forebears.  Such dispersed preferences are their perfect American right, of course.   But there is something about old-time religion – which is to say the brick-and-mortar kind – that generally does a better job of connecting people with each other than does less-socially entwined religiosity.

Or at the risk of being too dang glib, where and when do you think men and women are most likely to volunteer to help other men and women lug loads of heavy things from one city to another, and do so with agape verve?  Might it be Sunday mornings at church?  Or Sunday mornings at Starbucks?

Same question now for when people really need good friends with strong shoulders?

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