Sunday, November 4, 2007

Residential Revelations

Another weekend away - just my year group. Deepening relationships and a lovely group dynamic, some challenging theology, experimental worship and a kind invitation from the good Anglican monks to share their amazingly atmospheric, deeply spiritual and plainchant based worship.

I am shattered!

Two things struck me very profoundly and that has been like a Damascus Road experience. Despite the odd British ambivalence towards mainland Europe, it has become clear that we share the same religious landscape. That we often choose to identify with American Christianity is not helpful to us, understandable as it may be with a shared language (even if they insist on spelling it wrong!) Our shared history with Europe and some very striking parallels today make Europe our point of comparison for Christian trends.

Secondly - and this thanks to Grace Davie of "Religion in Britain since 1945" fame (see photo) - in a consumer age we need to think much more about people exercising choice in a wide range of areas of which religion is one. It is not so much that we aren't as religious as we once were as that we have fewer people attending church. The old sense of obligation about church attendance is what has declined more than religious belief. We don't recognise enough that a significant proportion of worshippers in that "golden age" were not there because they wanted to be, but because they felt they should be, even that they were socially required to be.

Church attendance in relation to the population of Great Britain is about as steady as the regular attendance from its whole membership as that of the local gym. Now that I understand.

Decline? Yes, of course. Terminal disaster? Absolutely not. Challenges? Most certainly.