They had an excuse. We do not.
In a recent article from the Guardian, I read that "Sister Frances Carr, one of three remaining members of the Shakers, died last month at the only existing Shaker community, Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine. The community was settled by the Shakers in 1783. Shakers practiced equality between the sexes, celibacy, pacifism, and communal ownership of property. They are dying out because of celibacy, because they aren't attracting new prospects, and because they stopped taking in orphans."
The two remaining members of this historic community are very old. They have kept the faith and will follow their sister into God's loving presence soon. A holy experiment begun generations ago is nearing the end of its life span. Curiosity seekers, loving neighbors and historians will see to the dispersal and preservations of the goods, buildings and property.
Churches, many, many churches, are closing everywhere every day. And if you, dear reader, harbor Shaker sympathies and leanings, my comments are not for your delicate ears.
Mainline churches are not closing because of pacifism, or equality between the sexes, or celibacy, thank God. Though I'll admit there are issues over property ownership that get a little tricky. And if we are not attracting new prospects, who shall we blame? That "great commission" thing issued by Jesus wasn't called a "commission" for nothing. And it did not come with an expiration date. Why would you foist this soul-centered activity off on someone else? Is the love, hospitality, compassion and prayerful tenderness we've come to feel not worth talking about? We shy away from talking about Jesus in the same way folks outside the church pounce on "organized religion" as a way to maintain their outsideness. We need to get over it.
By the way, communities of faith in all their denominational (dis)array have value because we are united in a common belonging. We know who we are and to whom we belong. And that's a good thing in this divisive, unsettled, un-truthy world.
Too many people equate unity with uniformity. Uniformity dismisses and prevents diversity while unity is about building harmony with different voices, different opinions, different stories. Unity makes room for conflict and questions and ideas and imagination. Unity throws open the doors and makes religion a little less "organized" as it should be.