Thursday, 3 March 2011

"Is Christianity dying in the West?"

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.


Stella said...

Any mention of the "Solitaries"?
Those of us, who for varying reasons, no longer feel able to be part of the traditional church, but nevertheless are striving to live authentic Christian lives.

Martin Davis said...

Stella, I think it must be very hard for you. We all need to have people we can turn to regularly for spiritual leadership, and what's more they need to be close at hand. As a Lenten "penance", might it be possible for you to seek out fellow-Christians in a place you haven't tried before, yet still near your home? A one-to-one private conversation can often be a fruitful starting point...


Stella said...

Yes at times it is hard, but for the most part it is very liberating.
Since taking this path I have found the most amazing inspiration from here, there and everywhere. It's wonderful how things just seem to fall into place, and as well as reading books I would never previously been aware of, I belong to the "Fellowship of Solitaries" which is a great support also.
However, I do agree that I need more local contact so I am joining the local Julian meeting when they re-convene in a couple of weeks after their winter break. I'm also hoping to go to our local convent for the monthly contemplative prayer group held there.
Thanks for your interest and concern.
PS: I posted the comment to draw attention to the "lapsed church goers" who may just have opted out of church attendance rather than Christianity as a whole.