DENVER — You don’t have to look very far to find people celebrating their faith in Colorado. You can find it in churches, in the great outdoors, even bars. Places of worship are in a constant state of transition as they evolve with the times and technology.
“There has been a decline, a marked decline in church attendance,” Rev. Dr. Thomas Wolfe of the Iliff School of Theology told Denver7. “People are still spiritual, but they're not defining themselves as religious, which means they don't always attend worship on a Sunday morning.”
Still, a Pew Research Group study found that 71 percent of people in Colorado say they are affiliated with a religion. In fact, about half consider themselves “very religious.” Yet only one in three ever actually go to church.
As Colorado’s population grows, so do the number of people looking to connect to faith groups, but they’re finding those connections differently than they used to. No longer are people joining a certain church just because their parents belong. They’re looking for something they can truly connect in a spiritual way that’s important to them.
“God wants us to encounter not just God in a spiritual way but in a tangible way,” said Father Jason Wunsch, the pastor at Denver’s St. Gianna Beretta Molla Catholic Church. “Things like community. I think young people are longing for that.”
To that end, churches are finding that people often connect with them first through an act of community service, then later come through their doors.
“When they see us living and doing life and living out our values around them they are more likely to be curious about what's going on,” said Rev. Jasper Peters, one of the founders of Denver’s Belong church. “They are people that we wouldn't have met in any other stretch of my imagination except for coming together to be not only a worshipping community but a serving community as well.”
Young and old also continue to rely on faith communities to guide them through life events like marriage, birth and death.
“People see religious institutions as places where they can come to find meaning and answers to life's ultimate questions,” said Senior Rabbi Joseph Black of Temple Emanuel. “One of the functions of religious institutions is to give people a place where they feel connected, to feel empowered, to feel that there are questions that need to be asked even if we don't have answers.”
In the Denver7 Special Finding Faith in Our Colorado, Jaclyn Allen and Eric Lupher look at many of the challenges and opportunities facing faith communities in Colorado, including how social media and technology is helping them connect with different groups of people.
Finding Faith in Our Colorado airs Sunday, December 23 at 4pm on Denver7 with an encore presentation scheduled for 9pm on Tuesday, December 25. Portions of the program were shot at Denver’s Historic Grant Avenue, a century old church turned community center in the heart of Denver. Visit their website for information on restoration efforts at Historic Grant Avenue.