As you may recall, my congregation recently built a new sanctuary, having grown out of our venerable World War I era worship space. The new sanctuary is visually stunning; it's roomy; and unlike the old one, it's also handicap accessible.
You may also recall that our congregation got behind this project to an amazing degree. During the congregational meeting where we decided to commit to the new sanctuary, only one person voted no.
So where'd all the people go?
It's very interesting: Since we've moved worship into the new space, our weekly attendance has gone down by about 30 people.
Is it buyers' remorse? Or the sort of "too nice to use" impulse that makes some families' living rooms off limits for everyday use? Or is it just the physical discomfort of learning to maneuver in this new space?
My pastor informs me that this phenomenon is not at all uncommon, and it might take a year to get some people back into church on a regular basis.
In the meantime...one of the most physically infirm older couples in our congregation -- people whom we had in mind when we committed to creating an accessible sanctuary -- continue to enter the church via the old front door and its tortuous stairway, instead of using the new accessible entrance. Go figure.