Pew or Canoe: The Unexpected Turn

Date Published

November 17, 2021

Home / Blog / Pew or Canoe: The Unexpected Turn

Published by Gary M. Burge

by Gary Burge

In 2007, Chicago Tribune columnist Ross Werland raised a provocative rhetorical question in the title of an editorial: “A pew or a canoe: Not a tough choice.” He cited statistics from the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, indicating that fewer and fewer men are attending their local churches, and he made an argument for skipping church altogether. “My other choice,” Werland wrote: “I can hop in my canoe and paddle up the White River in southern Wisconsin and within minutes find an unspoiled spot that looks like it’s right out of the original Garden, precisely as its creator intended it. For me, the better option is to savor the peace-giving, faith-inducing wonders of nature, the official art form of the deity.”

Werland made me think. Not long after, I was fly fishing on the Eau Claire River in central Wisconsin, and it was, well, inspiring. When I turned 60 (about Werland’s age), I noticed that my perception of what transpires at church had changed and had been evolving since I was about 50. I have a hunch that a few thousand other men and women are where I am.

This article appears on page 14 of the Summer 2020 edition of the Forum. Download this issue.


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