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Study explores return to church

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Christians over the age of 60 who have re-engaged with their faith community after a long period of absence are being asked to share their experiences as part of new research project being undertaken by the University of South Australia.

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The ‘Returning to Faith Communities’ study is being conducted by Dr Caroline Adams and Dr Janette Young from the School of Health Sciences at the University of South Australia and is exploring why older people re-engage with their church and how it may enhance the quality of their lives as they age.

Research assistant Anglican Reverend Marg Holt is currently conducting interviews for the project and is encouraging members of the Catholic Church who meet the criteria to consider being involved.

“Through the study we’re looking at the phenomena of why people are returning to the church after a long absence, and also why they leave the church in the first place, Rev Holt said.”

Some of the data collected so far indicates that most people left the church as young adults, after regularly attending in their youth with their parents.

“A common thread as to why they return to the church is the death of a spouse,” she said.

“The majority say they have maintained their faith in God throughout their lives, even though they are not going to church.

“With the death of a loved one they are drawn back by the comfort and support of the church community where they feel welcomed. They stay and become involved in different groups.

“It’s about their faith as well as meeting together with other people. Some talk about how they love the way the church is out in the community doing things,” she added.

Rev Holt is hoping to conduct about 25 interviews with people of all different Christian faiths before the end of October.

Participants need to be currently over the age of 60 who began/returned to church up to 10 years ago, and had not attended for 10 years or more prior to that time.

The interviews are confidential but are recorded and transcribed for the purposes of data analysis.

For more information about the research project contact Rev Marg Holt on 0466 539 749 or marg.holt@unisa.edu.au

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