In our town, for instance, we have one church that offers traditional liturgy influenced heavily by the Anglican tradition. They enjoy a beautiful building, excellent servers, fine music. Then we have the Franciscan parish with gospel music, a strong emphasis on peace and justice, lively preaching and involvement with the poor.
Across town we have a couple of typical American suburban parishes — easygoing contemporary music, large and active congregations, busy youth work, Life Teen Mass, a huge CCD program. On the other side of town a parish offers the Extraordinary Form every week — indeed, every day. The parish school is thriving and a busy, enthusiastic traditionalist crowd fills the pews.
So people church-shop.
It is a reality.
Church-shopping has its strengths and weaknesses. The downside is that we lose the natural diversity of a natural local community that has been part of Church understanding for eons. People are scattered and it’s hard to get them together. On the other hand, if people church-shop they are more likely to end up in a church they like and more likely to be committed to that congregation and ministry. Or so the theory goes. In fact, I have noticed something else creeping in which makes my job as a pastor even more difficult.
The church-shopping has started to disintegrate. Not only do people church-shop in order to find a church community to which they want to belong, but they church-shop from week to week.