I don’t know about you but I am getting rather fed up with the Church of England constantly complaining that the increase in radical secularism is the cause of their dwindling congregations.
Actually one of the key reasons is that many of their services are boring. Yes, boring. They may appeal to the older traditionalists but many of them don’t address the most important people – the young.
I recently watched three great BBC2 Documentaries “Reverse Missionaries” where, in each one, an overseas Minister came to the UK to stay in the Parish of the original missionary who had taken Christianity to their country. It was such an eye-opener, particularly for the visiting Ministers because what they encountered were generally an older generation who were very stuck in their ways and rather than get out and engage with younger people, were more comfortable complaining that no-one came to church anymore. What the visitors did, was what Jesus did, they got out into the community and started engaging with the younger people.
Even though there was resistance and apathy to start with, gradually those children and teenagers who had previously had some form of Christian input began to respond to the sheer enthusiasm of the visiting Ministers and the fact that they genuinely did care.
I must admit to wondering though what would happen once they all returned to their own countries and whether everything would just slide back to how it had been, but some very positive seeds had been sown.
Of the two Anglican churches in a town near me, one of them is quite full on a Sunday but again with mainly older people and the service is traditional. The other is nearly always full. Why? Because it is a family church, there is live music and the words to the upbeat hymns are on power point screens either side of the church. After a short while the younger members are taken for their own service in another part of the building and return towards the end. I have heard some people derogatively refer to the service as “more happy clappy” but I’d bet money on the fact that if it continues as it is, it will still be thriving in years to come and that when the children become adults, they will be bringing their children. I wouldn’t bet on the other one though.
Whilst I believe that we are a more secular society, I certainly don’t believe that it’s radical or at a crisis point. However I do believe that there is rampant apathy in many cases. In my experience as an Interfaith Minister many more people these days class themselves as “spiritual but not religious” and they certainly want to include sacred elements in their ceremonies. This indicates that they do have a faith or a belief in a higher source, and perhaps if Church services were livelier or there was more involvement in the community, I suspect they’d attract some of those people to their doors before it’s too late and they close forever.