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Bonding During the Night of the Churches Converging and Differing Experiences of Churchgoers and Non-Churchgoers

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How should we understand the paradoxical phenomenon that people are showing substantial interest in new events organized by the church in a western-European society that is characterized by dwindling church attendance? An explorative questionnaire study among churchgoers (n = 1016) and non-churchgoers (n = 317) was conducted who chose to attend the so-called Night of the Churches in the Netherlands. The majority of the respondents indicated that they experience the Night of the Churches to be a qualitatively different phenomenon from other festivals (e.g., museum night or music festival). Our data suggest that for both churchgoers and non-churchgoers shared bonding experiences (e.g., a special feeling of connectedness, contact with a higher spirit, together with unknown people) are what makes a Night of the Churches unique. Additionally, the results reveal that this event hardly changed respondents’ image of the church and that more churchgoers (22%) than non-churchgoers (13%) were interested in new forms of being church. Again, shared bonding experiences make the difference when it comes to being open to new ways of being church.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for the Study of Religion, Leiden University The Netherlands ; 2: Protestant Theological University Groningen The Netherlands


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