Monday, May 08, 2006

Penetrating life's absurdities

Qoheleth, the enigmatic writer of Ecclesiastes, would have a word for it. Apparently, Britain's young people prefer car boot sales to church. Now I could understand it if the research suggested they preferred trendy coffee shops or clothes shops, watching DVDs or chatting on MSN Messenger... But car boot sales?

Truly, I need to follow the advice of Ecclesiastes 2:3 (in the message version) - and it'll probably take a couple of bottles of decent vintage to help me get to the bottom of it.

According to this latest CofE findings, as reported in today's London Times, clubbing is not a spiritual experience, Buffy the vampire Slayer doesn't make teenagers think about alternative realities and September 11 doesn't seem to have led to any kind of religious musings.

The research was carried in part by Bob Mayo an excellent analyst of trends whose book Ambiguous Evangelism trailed some of these findings.

My immediate response was two-fold. First, I'm really pleased I'm not a youth worker! Though our church is in the throes of recruiting a minister for youth and young adults and it seems to me that he or she will have his/her work cut out if this research is true.

Second, I wonder how to square the findings with conversations I've had with young and youngish people over the past two weekends - in pubs in Brighton and outside pubs in Bromley. That experience suggests that young people - 18-35s - seem pretty clued up on the Christian Faith (and one or two other religions), happy to talk about it when confronted by obvious representatives of the churches (I was wearing a Street Pastors' uniform in Bromley and a Baptist Assembly lanyard in Brighton) and not hostile even if they did not believe.

Of course, I'd need to get hold of the report and read it from cover to cover to make sure that the lovely Ruth Gledhill of the Times is not leading me up the garden path. But then I'd need to get stuck into some serious thinking about what this means for our ministry as a church and individuals.

Oh, the Ecclesiates text says: ' With the help of a bottle of wine and all the wisdom I could muster, I tried my level best to penetrate the absurdity of life. I wanted to get a handle on anything useful we mortals might do during the years we spend on this earth.'

I suggest we all get down to Majestic and then get our thinking caps on (that's thinking with a 'th' at the beginning....)

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