Community, Creswell

Prayers, attendance up

CRESWELL – The once dwindling flame of the little country church may have been re-lit, as members are regaining hope that St. Philip Benizi in Creswell will keep its doors open. 

Saint Philip Benizi is a mission church under Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in  Cottage Grove, overseen by Fr. John Boyle. 

With a congregation of about 50 people, Saint Philip Benizi had seen a great decline in attendance since the pandemic. 

According to Lifeway Research, a March 2022 Pew Research study found 95% of U.S. houses of worship are open for in-person services, but only two in three regular attenders had returned. 

In addition, the average attendance of Protestant churches, of which 97% are open, reported attendance at 74% of their pre-pandemic levels as of January 2022. 

Overall, the percentage of Christians who say they attend church at least monthly has dropped by 7%, down to 57%.

Overseen by the Archdiocese in Portland, archbishop Alexander K. Sample was considering consolidating the church with the one in Cottage Grove. As of October, it seemed St. Philip Benizi was preparing to close its doors, but there is still a glimmer of hope.  

The lack of attendance and offerings has gotten media coverage in the last few months, and the community is more aware.

According to Dave Smith, parishioner of the church, Catholics are being reminded that there is a church in Creswell. The Hispanic community has also responded with enthusiasm. 

 “It is really beautiful to hear both Spanish and English prayers,” said Smith. Attendance has since risen, and so has weekly offerings. 

On Dec. 11, the church collected its second biggest collection in a very long time, according to Smith. “It is enough to keep us treading water,” Smith said.

To keep momentum going, on Wednesday evenings, 15 to 20 dedicated parishioners gather to pray together and say the rosary “in the hopes that our pleas will move divine mountains.” said Smith

St. Philip Benizi has not received word from the Archdiocese of a final decision, and assume they will not hear until after the holidays.  “It seems we are living in limbo,” said Smith. 



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