Refections from a Paper – The Emerging Church in Peru

I recently wrote a paper for my Global Understanding class. It is on the growing trend of Christian Churches in Peru. Gianella and Roxana are class partners from Peru that I worked with to gather research on the paper. I know it is against blog rules to have long post but…. this is a paper – so – deal with it!

According to my Peruvian partner Gianella, Peru is located in western South America. It borders the South Pacific Ocean between Chile and Ecuador. Peru has great variety it weather. It is tropical in the east, dry in the western deserts, and frigid in the Andes. Peruvian food is varied and is determined by the geography of the region, the climate, and the customs of the people. The varying weather in the different climates allows for several different typical dishes in each region.
The Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica says that in a 1993 survey 89% the population over 12 years old describes themselves as Catholic, 6.7% Evangelical, 2.7% as of other denomination, 1.4% as non-religious, and 0.2% did not specify any affiliation. In the 14 years since that census there may have been a shift in religious affiliation. In a conversation between Gianella, Roxana (a guest chatter), and myself, we discussed the protestant-catholic ratio. Roxana said that 70% of Peruvian people were Catholic, while 30% of the population is Protestant.
Gianella explained her Catholic upbringing. She says that in the Catholic Church it is mandatory that you have to get baptized. This makes you a son (or daughter) of God. In other celebrations, like getting married, a priest from the church is involved. She specifically cited that the priest were male. She explains the reasoning of this was because Peru received the Catholic Religion from Spanish Conquistadors. She claims that in the early days of the Catholic Church in Peru that the men were chauvinist, and that is why only men can perform marriage ceremonies.
Gianella also describes a decline in the Catholic Church. She says that on Sundays people would go to church all day. The early services were always full, but nowadays the services are almost empty. She used to attend church regularly with her mother. When she would attend she noticed that there were not many children in attendance. She feels that there were not many kids present because the kids found church to be boring and did not want to go.
Gianella dislikes how the church criticizes what people wear to church. In the summertime due to the weather many people would wear shorts and a t-shirt. Now she says that people are forced to wear jeans or a long skirt to enter the sanctuary. The sanctuary even has papers posted on the doors informing patrons of the dress code.
Gianella and I discussed a changing trend in religious affiliation. She says that more and more people are going to Christian Churches rather than to Catholic Churches. She and Roxana both said that in the past 10 years there have been a growing number of Christian Churches. This may be why in 1993 89% of Peruvians described themselves as Catholic, while now Gianella and Roxana say about 70% of people are Catholic and 30% are Christian.
Gianella expressed that she felt like there needed to be a change in the Catholic Church if the church did not want to continue to lose members. She says that while kids are bored in Catholic Church services and sit with their parents, in most Christian Churches the kids had their own service. She feels that they learn better about God in this environment. The kids get to listen to bible stories and do fun activities like painting. This keeps them from getting bored, yet they still learn about God. She also feels that the Catholic Church should use more instruments in their services. She said that hearing the same song over and over gets boring and more instruments and variety would be less boring.
Roxana, unlike Gianella, is not Catholic. She is Christian but she is unsure of her denomination. I ask her if she considered herself to be non-denominational. She still did not know, but she did know that she was not Baptist, Methodist, or Pentecostal. She was Catholic until age 15 when she became Christian. She points out that being Christian is very different from her Grandparents generation. Her grandparents and most of their friends are still Catholic. She says that Grandmother is a very devout Catholic, but she has no problems with Roxana being Christian.
In discussing the actual beliefs of both Christians and Catholics in Peru both Gianella and Roxana had opinions. Gianella feels that people are not sure in what believe. We discussed if the celebration of any Incan holidays like “inti raymi” had any religious meaning, but Gianella said that they were performed out of tradition rather then pagan celebration. Roxana feels that Catholics are Christians also, but she specifically defines herself as not being Christian-Catholic but only Christian. Gianella and Roxana both agree that Christian-Catholics and Christians have the same beliefs, but they demonstrate them differently. Roxanna personally prefers going to a “just Christian church” because she finds it less boring. She still has a respect for both religions.
In my conversations with Gianella and Roxana, I found that there is a distinct similarity to the churches in Peru and American Churches. The traditional church in Peru is Catholic, but the traditional church in the United States is Christian. However, both churches share similarities in not wavering from well-established traditions and ceremonies. Both churches are usually considered to be boring. The Catholic church and the traditional American church both also force kids to be bored sitting through services.
What is also referred to, as the “evangelical” or Christian church in Peru is very similar to a movement of churches in the United States that call themselves Emerging Churches. Emerging churches are churches that are moving away from the traditions and methods of traditional churches. They use upbeat music, lighting, and video to get their messages across. People who attend these churches are normally casually dressed and do not wear “church clothes” to services. These churches goal are to be culturally relevant by avoiding being boring. The children’s ministries are dedicated to making sure kids do not see church as being boring. In conversation with Roxana I found that her church was very similar to this. The music was not like Catholic churches, and she did not have to dress up to attend services.
The Christian churches are growing in Peru because they are answering a need that is being asked for by individuals like Gianella. Gianella did not like the lack of variety in music and instruments, not being able to wear what you like to church, church being boring, and kids getting bored in church. Many Christian churches are answering these needs and attracting people like Roxana, who are leaving the Catholic church for this less boring environment.
I feel that this trend is going to continue to grow until the Catholic church figures out that they need to adapt to help maintain this generation that is moving to Christian churches or leaving the church altogether.

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