Are worship styles part of the church's decline?

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  • Well, I have a bit more time before worship than I thought.

    Enich, I was speaking about my Meeting (semi-programmed, there is a third choice). Without using a word with "program" in it, I had attempted to distinguish between my Meeting and those of another tradition.

    For anyone interested, here is a "flow chart" re when to speak in Meeting.

    https://www.fgcquaker.org/cloud/announcements/flowchart-knowing-when-speak-meeting-worship

    There are many nuances. I would prefer not to increase this tangent, so if anyone has questions, PM me and I'll be happy to answer.

    Dee, I hope my response to your question had some value. Please PM me if you'd like to know more.
  • While we're perhaps still on the tangent (if it in fact be one) thanks for your comments. We are accustomed to Taizé and its silences, but had not understood Quaker practice.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    We cross posted just this minute, Gee. Glad you found my info useful.

    I think I called you Dee earlier. That's the name of a family member. Apologies.
  • Boogie wrote: »
    If I didn’t have the puppy to take out for a ‘call of nature’ I’d leave and not bother finding another church. My friends decamp to the Parish Church when our minister is taking the service (Thankfully only once a month as she has four churches).

    Does she know? Has anyone told her?

    She has, I have talked to her about it myself. I was asking her about the fact that she tends to say the same things three ways. She replied ‘Jesus often repeated himself and said things three times, it’s a well used teaching tool’.

  • Well, it used to be said that in order to preach an effective sermon (should such a thing exist), one should:

    1. Tell them what you're going to say;
    2. Say it;
    3. Tell them what you've said.

    Perhaps that's what Boogie's minister meant?
    :wink:

    IJ
  • Is it just me, but whether it's programmed or semi-programmed or unprogrammed or any point in between, isn't there something a bit counter-intuitive about having a flow-chart to indicate when to speak in a Quaker meeting? ;)

    I'm not knocking it. There's a lot of debate in more sacramental circles as to when or how the consecrated elements become the Body and Blood of Christ.

    So everyone seems to have their 'kairos' moments and so on. I'm sure the flowchart is very helpful.

    Hope that doesn't extend the tangent but it's just an observation.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    That flow chart is not a rule. Plenty of people speak when they feel "something" prompting them and give any attention to anything else

    I'm a little sorry now that I posted it. It's not even close to being official.

    I just thought that it might give some insight into the various nuances that go into "vocal ministry" which is
    what it's often called

    I was thinking that it might be helpful, Gamna, since you specifically asked to know more about how we encourage vocal ministry.

    Give it a chance, think of it as less prescriptive and more of a resource....or don't.

    The only serious etiquette for vocal ministry is to not debate someone else's and to try to leave a but of time between when you speak and the last person to speak.

  • Don't apologise. I'm interested. I once said something in a Quaker meeting and I'd be interested to see the extent to which I was or wasn't in line with the flow-chart.

    ;)

    Relax, I'm not taking the mickey or taking a pop at the Quakers. I've got a lot of time for the Friends.
  • Changing the subject....since I went to my Mennonite Church this morning and found myself pondering.

    I wonder if declining church affiliation and/or attendence has something to do with the "comodifcation" of religion. Church as comodity--take a bit when you feel you need some but otherwise, life is centered around secular affiliations.

    This is not the same as church as community where people are involved with each other in deeper ways.

    One of my sisters attends a church with over 1,000 members (not bad as it goes). They have programs in addition to worship, but it's hard to form spiritual friendships. I've been to services with her, and pretty much people leave as soon as its over (a few stay for coffee).

    Today I was at a worship service where babies are passed around for people to hold, there is a lot of fellowship before and after the service, people share their needs so others can help them out, people know your name. We are saying goodbye to a couple, one of which has dementia and has not reacted well to the thought if giving away to be with a family member. So, during the anouncements period, we discussed how best to have a going away party and not trigger any upset. (We're going to have a "thank you for all you've done for us" party.)

    I have conflicting feelings about organized religion, but I keep coming back to places where I have a sense that we're all in this together. I wouldn't be so inclined if going to church was more impersonal.

    I can't help thinking that consumerism drives some of what we call church these days, and we're missing out in a deeper sense if connection.

    Of course, YMMV, and etc
  • Don't apologise. I'm interested. I once said something in a Quaker meeting and I'd be interested to see the extent to which I was or wasn't in line with the flow-chart.

    ;)

    Relax, I'm not taking the mickey or taking a pop at the Quakers. I've got a lot of time for the Friends.

    Well, since the flow chart isn't a rule, I bet you were just fine....as long as you didn't jump up immediately after someone spoke or said something like "I have to take issue with what Joe just said. ."
  • I thought the flow chart was rather good. It lists a lot of questions all of us could well be asking of ourselves before opening our big mouths, not just in the context of a Quaker meeting but plenty of other contexts.


  • I wonder if declining church affiliation and/or attendence has something to do with the "comodifcation" of religion. Church as comodity--take a bit when you feel you need some but otherwise, life is centered around secular affiliations. [/quote]

    Sabine, (love your icon) I think you are spot on with this observation. Which is not to say that people aren't looking for a community, but they are finding it elsewhere. This week I heard a speaker talk about slimming clubs (weight watchers, slimming world etc.) with the observation that most of those who go may begin by going for help with weight, but end up going because of the shared struggle and goal and hence the community. And that was just one example.
  • What a fascinating flowchart, sabine: thank you. As Enoch wrote it could be useful in many contexts. May steal it and adjust for work meetings! :smile:
  • Commodification is only one aspect. Another is decline in frequent attendance even among the faithful. The big driver of this is not that shopping is available on Sunday but the social restructuring caused by the car and the higher mobility of the middle classes. Weekends are often the days grandparents can come to see grandchildren. Families are often dispersed as where people live is determined by job availability so it is not easy to drop in a evening. Then the fact that grandchildren are at school and their parents are working means that coming for a day during the week is pointless. Finally you have the wide ownership of the car so Grandparents can easily get at the weekend.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    I would add 'working at weekends' to that list.

    Our Place serves a poor parish, and many of those who are employed are often in low-paid, menial jobs, and have to go to work on Sundays (or overnight, which makes it impossible to come out on a Sunday morning).

    IJ

  • Leisure activities. Football, cycling clubs, all sorts of things - all meet Sunday mornings these days. It's all very well saying "Church should be more important" but that's not exactly going to get the curious and on the fringe people in is it?
  • Indeed - all those factors at play which Karl, Bishop's Finger and Jengie plus many many more besides.

    On the flow-chart -- yes, agreed, I think it's very helpful and could be usefully applied to other contexts too.
  • Of course, if churches never change, they can't compete with the increase in offerings from secular society.

    One if the premier social justice churches in my city has a service time especially for those who can't make the regular Sunday morning service because of work (mostly liw paid service workers), other churches have football viewing parties or babysitting co-ops where some members take turns watching children so their parents can have time off to enjoy a night out.

    My niece attends a University where several churches have Sunday evening services for students. They are extremely well attended.

    The lure of secular society is great, and made greater through marketing. I don't think churches can keep on doing what they've always done and hope to compete. It may seem awkward and not church like, but new strategies are needed.

  • Whatever they do, it must have integrity and honesty; and it should avoid well-meaning amateurism.
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Leisure activities. Football, cycling clubs, all sorts of things - all meet Sunday mornings these days. It's all very well saying "Church should be more important" but that's not exactly going to get the curious and on the fringe people in is it?

    Historically most morning services were not aimed at the fringe, they were the church family service where the serious teaching of the committed and communion took place. Evening service was supposed to be the performance service to attract the curious and on the fringe people. Guess which service got cut rather than changed to reach its clientele. The same goes for afternoon Sunday Schools. The church has withdrawn consistently rather than face up to social change.
  • Perhaps ... the rationale was that the "sinners" weren't coming to the evening services (conveniently scheduled to conflict with both meals and the TV) but were more likely to come in the morning, before lunch etc.. When I was a Bible College student in Glasgow in the 70s, our students conducted a lot of evening "Gospel services" which were frankly a waste of time since outsiders were never present (and hadn't been for years).
  • sabine wrote: »

    My niece attends a University where several churches have Sunday evening services for students. They are extremely well attended.

    Our church youth group used to meet on a Sunday evening, and was very popular. But when that cohort of young people went away to University, the next age group down declared they couldn't possibly attend on a Sunday evening as that is when they did their (at the last minute!) homework.

    Just because something works well for a few years, it doesn't mean that it will continue to do so.

  • .I don't think there is one answer to fit all. And I do think it's important to keep looking for the answer that meets the local need.

    Of note: the church is flourishing in the global south and (in my country, at least) among ethnic groups and immigrants. What can we learn from this?

  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    Because it serves as a focus for the groups' cohesion and identity, as much as for their religion (although this itself may be a factor in maintaining their identity).
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    Because it serves as a focus for the groups' cohesion and identity, as much as for their religion (although this itself may be a factor in maintaining their identity).

    Yes, and why have we in the developed world allowed other things to serve as the focus of our identity and cohesion? This is peaking both my social work and anthropological curiosity.

    I would also add that there are countries in the global south that have societies as complex as ours in the global north. Something is working that we need to pay attention to, IMO
  • Well, there are groups in Britain such as the Swiss or Norwegian churches ...

    I think it's harder to define/encourage a sense of identity for groups which aren't a distinctive minority within a wider culture.
  • You're right, Baptist Trainfan, but that isn't what has me curious.

    I'm curious to know why people in the global north identify as, say, football fans rather than church goers. Or Sunday golfers or those who sleep in.. Or those with transportation issues.

    1) I think part of it is that we have big corporations with big marketing departments whose goal is to get us to believe we aren't successful if we don't have or do things that benefit them, things the church has not traditionally offered.

    2) Income inequality isn't always addressed by churches in a way that is more than charity. Meaningful and inclusive outreach may be something that congregations can't always do alone. Partnerships may be needed to help people feel that churches are places where community might happen. This might be especially important for those with disabilities.

    3) When institutions begin to dwindle or fail, there is sometimes a tendency to hold on tight to "the way we've always done it" even in the face of a need for change. Brainstorming falls apart when people keep coming up with examples of the one time something was tried and didn't work out.

    4) One size does not fit all.

    5) To paraphrase Albert Einstein....nothing changes unless something changes.
  • I've mentioned this before, but I was struck when reading a study about non-conformist churches (for non-UK Shippies read 'non-Anglican') in Huddersfield, a large former mill town. Chapel-going was part of many people's lives there for generations, not just services but groups like Christian Endeavour, church-based sports clubs, talks, magic-lantern slides etc etc ...

    Attendance and membership dropped dramatically from the 1920s onwards. The reasons given in the study were:

    - Increased public transport and on a Sunday too. People could catch buses to visit other places.
    - The growth of the cinema.

    For the first time there were other things people could do besides attend church or chapel services.

    People have other support networks these days too, not just churches.

    Yes, churches are still flourishing in the global south. But for how much longer?

    Romanians I know tell me that church-going increased dramatically across all churches and denominations - Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant - after the fall of Communism but has begun to dwindle again as Western materialism takes hold.

    In sociological terms, we have to develop 'plausibility structures.'

    Easier said than done.
  • 'Plausibility structures'.....would you care to unpack that a little, as they say?

    IJ
  • A certain 'pedia is your friend:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plausibility_structure

    The usual caveats apply.

  • A certain 'pedia is your friend:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plausibility_structure

    The usual caveats apply.

    Anyone care to translate that entry into English?
  • The set of criteria used to assess whether you should accept something as true. These are larger than the individual for if you hold something to be true that does not conform to meet these criteria then society holds you as being delusional.
  • Perhaps reverting to the OP, I've noticed in recent years that we have an increasingly transient congregation at Our Place, to the extent that I can now say 'Good Morning' in at least eleven different languages!

    With people coming to us - even if only for a short time - from so many different lands and personal backgrounds, ISTM that the 'Western Rite' Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion, as celebrated by us in a fairly simple and relaxed style (Common Worship Order One with a few Carflick bits, a simple sung setting, and some hymns) becomes a sort of 'one size fits all'.

    It seems to suit people from Angola, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Nigeria, Zambia, France, the Philippines........even Russians and Greeks (must be something to do with the clouds of incense!*).

    If this is so, there seems to be no reason to reinvent the wheel, and to aim for different sorts of service. With Sunday attendance these days so erratic, it would be difficult to do this effectively, anyway.

    YMMV.

    IJ

    (*I've suggested to Madam Sacristan that we really need one of those Orthodox thuribles, with bells.)
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    I'm glad you've said this, Bishop's Finger. There is so much panicking about 'the right sort of worship' to attract hypothetical attenders rather than just getting on and doing it, in a bog-standard but authentic and prayerful liturgy. In my experience of the diocese in Europe, where many/most of the churches attract a similar sort of multi-ethnic congregation from all parts of the theological spectrum, this is the approach that works. Many of us would feel short-changed if we were denied the Eucharist on a Sunday; those expecting the Bible to be read and preached on would not be similarly short-changed by a Sung Mass, however unfamiliar its style might be.

    And the 'unchurched masses' would have few ideas of what to expect anyway. People expect church to be a bit weird. If they see real human beings acting weirdly they might be challenged to think; whereas if they see weird people condescending to their supposed tastes they will be turned off.
  • Thanks, angloid. That's really what I was trying to get at.

    We put on other services from time to time, of course, such as at Easter and Christmas, but the bog-standard Sunday (or weekday) Eucharist is What We Do.

    IJ
  • angloid wrote: »
    *snip*
    And the 'unchurched masses' would have few ideas of what to expect anyway. People expect church to be a bit weird. If they see real human beings acting weirdly they might be challenged to think; whereas if they see weird people condescending to their supposed tastes they will be turned off.

    Many of the liturgical committee and/or church planner types with whom I have discussed these issues seem to be hysterically unaware of this point. Queries among my unchurched friends (perhaps almost 80-90% of my circle) about what they thought might be happening in church services turn up a perplexing vision-mix of evangelical superchurches as seen on channel 25 (religious programming in this neck of the bush), synagogue funerals, the Pope's Christmas mass, Pastor Bob from the Seventies Show (on the rerun channel), and services from old westerns (prairie lesbians with an eastern Orthodox background are an interesting subset in their own right). Aside from funerals or weddings, almost none have ever attended a service.

    There appear to be two things they would like; not to be put in an embarrassing position ("will our visitors please stand up so that we can greet them") and, if there be music, it's something to which they can sort of sing along. Anything else would be considered normal for the setting, chasubles, golf shirts, or raccoon sacrifice.



  • Thanks you for your post BF: we seem to be attracting people from Eastern Europe who have settled locally and who either are orthodox (and there is no orthodox church near us, of any stripe) or RC but find the local RC churches not to their liking.

    Two couples in particular have made us their home: both mixed marriages (1 RC-Serbian Orthodox, 1 RC-Greek Orthodox) they say we are the meeting ground in the middle of what each of them grew up in. All four say that the music in our place is inspiring which is nice :smile:
  • My experience is far more than the style of worship it is the idea that new people coming in whether they stay one week or a life time are an experience to be cherished. It means that people are seen as individuals who bring what they bring to worship and that is good. It means sensing how ready the visitors are for conversation and not assuming one side fits all. It involves gentle inculturation opportunity; neither disproving looks if they get it wrong nor over enthusiastic information provision, the personal drip feed is far better than the deluge of printed information. People need to move from observer to participant at their own pace and it is quite all right just to observe for quite a while. If they take away they are accepted, then you have made a friend whether they come back the next week or not.
  • Eh? I'm not sure how incomprehensible my post was but I s'pose it might have been better rendered as:

    'You can look these things up on a certain online encyclopedia but don't take it as 100% accurate.'

    Is that better, Karl?
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    Eh? I'm not sure how incomprehensible my post was but I s'pose it might have been better rendered as:

    'You can look these things up on a certain online encyclopedia but don't take it as 100% accurate.'

    Is that better, Karl?

    Your post was clear. The Wikipedia article on the other hand could have been written in Swahili for all I could make sense of it.
  • Like mousethief, this doesn't affect me personally - but I was once Church of England, so I can relate to it.

    My first thoughts were about "cafeteria Christianity", but I see the article starts off by referring to just that. It's a good and timely article, I think.

    My own thoughts are that whenever "Bible-only" churches update their services to "be more relevant" they actually lose something, for example the dumbing down of the Baptism service in the C of E - now some important doctrinal understandings of what Baptism is all about are left out entirely. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali had much to say about that.

    It seems they want to fill pews by offering entertainment (jokes, music, video, OHP etc), but why would anyone come to Church just for that, when they can get better entertainment down the local pub?

    As for a "made-to-measure church tailored to suit your tastes" (including your doctrinal preferences) - what happened to "One Church, One Faith, One Baptism?

    Therefore, in answer to the OP, yes I do think worship styles (plural) contribute to the churches' (plural) decline.
  • Mark Betts wrote: »
    It seems they want to fill pews by offering entertainment (jokes, music, video, OHP etc), but why would anyone come to Church just for that, when they can get better entertainment down the local pub?
    Or, for that matter, staying at home and watching television/streaming?
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Mark Betts wrote: »
    Like mousethief, this doesn't affect me personally - but I was once Church of England, so I can relate to it.

    My first thoughts were about "cafeteria Christianity", but I see the article starts off by referring to just that. It's a good and timely article, I think.

    My own thoughts are that whenever "Bible-only" churches update their services to "be more relevant" they actually lose something, for example the dumbing down of the Baptism service in the C of E - now some important doctrinal understandings of what Baptism is all about are left out entirely. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali had much to say about that.

    It seems they want to fill pews by offering entertainment (jokes, music, video, OHP etc), but why would anyone come to Church just for that, when they can get better entertainment down the local pub?

    As for a "made-to-measure church tailored to suit your tastes" (including your doctrinal preferences) - what happened to "One Church, One Faith, One Baptism?

    Therefore, in answer to the OP, yes I do think worship styles (plural) contribute to the churches' (plural) decline.
    But is your communion winning the faithless multitude? Are they flocking in to hear its message or worship with it? Or is it only attracting those who, like you, were dissatisfied with their previous communion?
  • Mark Betts wrote: »
    Like mousethief, this doesn't affect me personally - but I was once Church of England, so I can relate to it.

    My first thoughts were about "cafeteria Christianity", but I see the article starts off by referring to just that. It's a good and timely article, I think.

    My own thoughts are that whenever "Bible-only" churches update their services to "be more relevant" they actually lose something, for example the dumbing down of the Baptism service in the C of E - now some important doctrinal understandings of what Baptism is all about are left out entirely. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali had much to say about that.

    It seems they want to fill pews by offering entertainment (jokes, music, video, OHP etc), but why would anyone come to Church just for that, when they can get better entertainment down the local pub?

    As for a "made-to-measure church tailored to suit your tastes" (including your doctrinal preferences) - what happened to "One Church, One Faith, One Baptism?

    Therefore, in answer to the OP, yes I do think worship styles (plural) contribute to the churches' (plural) decline.

    I don't think it's meant to be entertainment. Rather, it's meant to reach 'unchurched' people in a way which old fashioned churchy language doesn't. Jesus sent the disciples out with no baggage.

    There's a place for the depth of the traditional liturgies and practices, but I for one needed to step into the shallow water and be ready to swim before going into the depths.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Mark Betts wrote: »
    Like mousethief, this doesn't affect me personally - but I was once Church of England, so I can relate to it.

    My first thoughts were about "cafeteria Christianity", but I see the article starts off by referring to just that. It's a good and timely article, I think.

    My own thoughts are that whenever "Bible-only" churches update their services to "be more relevant" they actually lose something, for example the dumbing down of the Baptism service in the C of E - now some important doctrinal understandings of what Baptism is all about are left out entirely. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali had much to say about that.

    It seems they want to fill pews by offering entertainment (jokes, music, video, OHP etc), but why would anyone come to Church just for that, when they can get better entertainment down the local pub?

    As for a "made-to-measure church tailored to suit your tastes" (including your doctrinal preferences) - what happened to "One Church, One Faith, One Baptism?

    Therefore, in answer to the OP, yes I do think worship styles (plural) contribute to the churches' (plural) decline.
    But is your communion winning the faithless multitude? Are they flocking in to hear its message or worship with it? Or is it only attracting those who, like you, were dissatisfied with their previous communion?

    It certainly isn't attracting less from the faithless multitude, than the communions this thread is really about.
  • Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Mark Betts wrote: »
    Like mousethief, this doesn't affect me personally - but I was once Church of England, so I can relate to it.

    My first thoughts were about "cafeteria Christianity", but I see the article starts off by referring to just that. It's a good and timely article, I think.

    My own thoughts are that whenever "Bible-only" churches update their services to "be more relevant" they actually lose something, for example the dumbing down of the Baptism service in the C of E - now some important doctrinal understandings of what Baptism is all about are left out entirely. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali had much to say about that.

    It seems they want to fill pews by offering entertainment (jokes, music, video, OHP etc), but why would anyone come to Church just for that, when they can get better entertainment down the local pub?

    As for a "made-to-measure church tailored to suit your tastes" (including your doctrinal preferences) - what happened to "One Church, One Faith, One Baptism?

    Therefore, in answer to the OP, yes I do think worship styles (plural) contribute to the churches' (plural) decline.

    I don't think it's meant to be entertainment. Rather, it's meant to reach 'unchurched' people in a way which old fashioned churchy language doesn't. Jesus sent the disciples out with no baggage.

    There's a place for the depth of the traditional liturgies and practices, but I for one needed to step into the shallow water and be ready to swim before going into the depths.

    Fair point - but I suspect many stay in the shallow end and never venture out into the depths.
  • And sometimes, Church can present as fun and undemanding, but underneath there is a very deep and strong current. You can get out of your depth very easily. One minute, you are singing jolly choruses, but after a few weeks the message gets quite scary. Especially if you don't fit the predetermined mould.
  • I think Dead Horses and connected issues (race, class etc) are going to be responsible for the decline of the Church (and always has been, cf issues of the parish priest and local squire being in cahoots causing a lot of Victorian church decline for instance) and worship style is largely irrelevant. All the 'relevant' worship in the world isn't going to attract people to an institution they feel is immoral, and it would be a mistake to conflate a moral problem with commodification. I think the Church's fuck-ups are much, much too deep to be repaired by such things - and this applies just as much to churches that studiously avoid attempts at relevancy. This also affects churches relying on older people going to church more, particularly as Generation X and younger generations age. The people who survived the AIDS crisis while watching their friends die aren't going to start going to church just because they're retired now (and yes many Gen Xers are heading towards retirement now). Sorry.

    I'm intrigued as to how those promoting pioneer ministry and similar more 'fluid' forms of church are handling this, because at least in the CoE it's very evangelical dominated (pioneer specific ministerial training is currently only offered at evangelical training colleges within the CoE). I think Anglo-Catholics (speaking as one albeit 'hanging on') and MOTR traditions (which would apply I think to more trad Non-conformists too I think) really need to look at how we can offer something people need, rather than just something different. Being different is not enough in itself. I'm always surprised, for instance, at the lack of Saturday evening services outside of RC churches when it seems like such an obvious and relatively easy thing to bring in.

    This said, I have no idea what the answer is beyond Church leadership (at the highest level) being very different to the present set-up in terms of demographics, and being one that actually reflects the people around them. I don't know if that will happen even within my lifetime. I agree that we need the Holy Spirit to breathe on us afresh, although likely very differently to how others here would see it.
  • I will say that the churches I have been in where I have felt a sense of the numinous, a sense of there being a 'soul' to the place that made me want to stay even if it wasn't necessarily the kind of place I'd worship every week have all been from quite different traditions, and worship styles didn't have a particular impact. Worship that I liked may have enhanced the experience, but too many churches use their style of worship in lieu of a personality (Anglo-Catholics are as guilty of this as any other group by the way) while ignoring the fact that there's nothing below the surface. A sense of authenticity and depth to a church can make up for a lot. I don't know how to translate these terms into practical behaviour, or indeed into language that isn't just buzzwords - I fear it's just one of those things that's either there or isn't.
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