People who are active in a religious community are more likely to describe themselves as “very happy”.
A new study was reported in Southern Living that I found on social media. We ministers pass these reports around eagerly, sometimes. It says that people who regularly attend church are happier than those who don’t. This was music to my ears, but the research went further and tried to analyze why this is so.
The report is based on the results of a Pew Research Center study and it says that somehow being part of a community of faith and participating in the fellowship, gathering regularly to pray and sing has a huge impact on our well-being as people. The data comes from a study of people in 35 countries including the United States and it links participation in a religious community with civic engagement too. “Actively religious people in the U.S. are more likely to say that they are very happy, that they vote in national elections and that they’re more engaged in community life”, according to Conrad Hackett Associate Director for Research at Pew Research.
In addition 58% of religious American adults reported being involved with at least one voluntary charity organization significantly higher that the 39% who come from the group of people unaffiliated religiously. Now, one caveat from this data, something Pew notes, is that it may just be showing that the reason these folks feel happy is because they are active in lots of community activities among which are a church, temple or mosque. It might be that there is a stronger link between happiness and staying active than there is between faith and happiness. Or it might be that some people are active because they feel happy. It is hard to be sure what is the cause and what is the effect.
But research has shown again and again, and anecdotes confirm, that churches offer us inspiration, music, community life and opportunities to study and help others. All faiths offer us emotional support, intellectual stimulation, and ways to be involved in causes that improve the life of the world. Religious communities provide ways to find true satisfaction. Advertisers tell us we will find happiness if we buy the right things. But churches remind us that true happiness comes from giving ourselves to a cause that expands our horizons. Ellen Idler is a sociology professor at Emory and adviser to the report. She says that compassion is a tenet of all faiths and service to others is a teaching in every religion.
So when we belong to a religious community we discover a calling that I believe is deep in our souls, the call to serve and find ourselves in the process.
I hope this season of Lent has been a time when you have been able to hear God’s call in new ways.
We have completed our series on Faith in Action on Wednesday evenings. We heard from an economist who is working to end plastic pollution on the Cape and the Islands, Madhavi Ventakesan. We heard from Pam Purdy who uses art to fight racism by making modern icons. We heard from the Youth from Nauset High Schools Green Committee who talked to us about their passion to fight pollution and brought some mugs to support Coastal Research. (We still have a few of their mugs for sale at Coffee Hour.) This week we heard from Rev. Rod MacDonald who runs a Refugee Support Team to raise awareness and offer respite and vacations to immigrants seeking asylum and living in Massachusetts.
Each one of these evenings has brought opportunities to hear about people who have put their faith in action, and are making a difference here on Cape Cod.
Note a schedule change. The last in the series would have been two speakers from the Cape Cod Council of Churches but we have postponed their presentation to a Sunday luncheon in June. This change works better for them.
So this week’s talk has been cancelled.
Save the Date - April 24th The Youth from Monomoy High School along with their teacher- Liz Hoff. Liz led a trip to Spain in February and will come with her students to talk about the people of a Spanish village and how they have a remarkable connection to Harwich. You won’t want to miss this 5-7 p.m. Potluck and Talk.