Sunday, March 13, 2005

A secular society?

Pretty much every month I read an article in the Sunday papers containing a sheepish admission. The usually middle class, thirty-something reporter is confessing that he goes to church. He doesn't want to make a song and dance about it, rarely tells his mates what he gets up to a Sunday and doesn't want to be classified as a 'Jesus freak'.

This week's Sunday Times contains a affectingly written piece by such a reporter informing us that he started going because he wanted his children christened.

Now he realises how the Christian faith and being British - or English as he prefers - are bound up with each other, the latter being largely incomprehensible without the former. Furthermore, he suggests that English faith is a muddle of believing and scepticism and so he doesn't want to spell out in too much detail what he actually believes.

I found his piece thought-provoking and moving. In particular, I found his references to churches where the liturgy and music are familiar - that is to say, traditional or even old fashioned - truly challenging.

As we think about how we do church services to attract the broadest range of people, the assumption is that the elderly want traditional and the young - especially the educated and professional young - want the informal, exploratory and unfamiliar.

Perhaps it's only the slightly disaffected church goer - the stalwart of twenty years who's been involved in running things - who wants significant change in the way we do things because they are bored.

The trouble is, of course, none of this answers the question why 1500 people are leaving our churches every week and not coming back. Is it the rapid pace of change in our liturgy that's driving them away or the fact that we appear rooted to the spot, still singing the songs we were a generation ago? Is it that we've overly defined the faith or left people wondering who God is and where he can be found?

Answers on a postcard....

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