Are WNYers losing their religion? Church to close after 65 years

Posted at 1:42 PM, Jun 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-14 18:36:18-04

A once thriving Town of Tonawanda church will close its doors by the end of this month, citing a steep drop in attendance that has made it nearly impossible to move forward. 

The Brighton Community Baptist Church will celebrate its final public service this Sunday. Several former pastors will be returning to bid farewell to a symbol of faith in the Ken-Ton community for 65 years.

Rev. David Weidman will preside over Sunday's service. Weidman said the church was home to hundreds of people in the 1950s and 1960s. Membership today has dwindled to about 100. Of that number, only about 30 people attend church regularly, Weidman said. 

A recent Gallup poll found church attendance among catholics has decreased from 45 percent in 2005-2008 to 39 percent from 2014-2017. Among Protestants, the drop is less dramatic - 45 percent from 2014-2017, down one percent from 2005-2008.

Among catholics ages 21 to 29, 25 percent said they attended mass weekly; compared to 36 percent of young Protestants. 

While Brighton Community Baptist will cease to exist by the end of the month, the building along Brighton Road near Niagara Falls Boulevard will not sit vacant. It will be turned over to the local Burmese population to serve as a Baptist church for that community. 

What is driving the change in church attendance?

Dr. G. Stanford Bratton, Executive Director for the Network of Religious Communities, said it appears that baby boomers and millennials are no longer interested in being affiliated with any organized institution such as churches.  However, research shows that Americans view themselves as becoming more spiritual and devoted, which contradicts findings from Europe that show people there are becoming more secular.

So why aren't younger people who claim to be more spiritual attending church? 

That is the question that is baffling religious experts.  Although some point to the decline of "Blue Laws," which kept businesses closed on Sundays, and the increasing use of technology and social media.

Researchers are also finding there is a growing number of people who are not affiliated with any organized religion, explained Dr. Bratton.

Rev. David G.M. Weidman, pastor of the Brighton Community American Baptist Church, told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly, that he worries about a generation of people now growing up with no religious foundation to fall back on.

Ed Reilly will have more on this story tonight.


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