Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies S. Brent Plate discussed the disappearance of churches in Upstate New York and across the nation with alumnus David Chanatry ’80 during Chanatry’s report, “Another Church Shuttered In MohawkValley,” broadcast on public radio station WAMC on Feb. 12. The central focus of the story was the closure of Christ Lutheran church in Little Falls.
The segment will be rebroadcast this week on other public radio stations including WRVO and North Country Public Radio. Chanatry’s report was part of the New York Reporting Project at Utica College, a non-profit journalism organization focused on local and New York state issues.
During the interview, Plate observed that, especially in small towns, churches are less relevant to the social needs of communities than they used to be. “The church as always a place of social life,” said Plate. “You went to the church service, you listened to the church sermon, but then you stuck around afterwards and you had lunch together, and you knew people and business deals began with the churches. Church life was implicated in all other life of the community.”
In discussing Americans’ increasing lack of affiliation with any religion, Plate said, “We’ve got this huge culture of individualism in the states, and we believe we can practice on our own. We can do this by ourselves. We kind of have self-help Christianity sometimes.”
Plate was quoted earlier this week in a Washington Times article titled “Hollywood films a testament to renewed interest in Bible stories.” In commenting on several upcoming films with biblical themes, Plate said that the upcoming epics are “the contemporary equivalents to 1956’s Ten Commandments, 1959’s Ben Hur and 1961’s King of Kings.”