The well-known broadcaster Elaine Storkey was our stimulating speaker at the Severn Forum this evening, revisiting "the secularisation thesis". Her slides gave us a barrage of statistics and quotations, first of all to substantiate the thesis - as if we were not aware of declining church attendances. I liked the juxtaposition of a photograph of the London bus slogan, "There's probably no God..." with the cartoon of a church by a bus-stop, and its notice, "There's probably no bus so come to church and enjoy yourself a bit."
More interesting was Dr. Storkey's analysis of religious life as mutating, not disappearing. Of the 40% who are dechurched (or lapsed), more than half she said are waiting to be asked to return to the fold. Of the 40% unchurched, with no experience of worship, how many, she asks, may have a longing for God? The ways of being religious have moved into the symbolic marketplace; but how do we meet them there? Who is going to claim their baggage from the carousel?
My answer was this, with which our speaker agreed - as I knew she would being President of Tear Fund, with its carbon fast: when the church takes seriously the challenge of environmental degradation, and the need to uphold God's creation, we find ourselves very readily alongside those unchurched masses, many of whom are doing much to right the wrongs we should be talking about within our churches, but are not.