According to Tim Ross of The Daily Telegraph, a survey by the Office for National Statistics or ONS, has found that some 23% of Britons claim no religous conviction at all. Furthermore, the proportion of people describing themselves as Christian fell from 71.3% to 68.5% as at March of this year. The ONS interviewed some 400,000 people during its survey to quantify religious belief in the UK; taken across the population as a whole, it would indicate some 14 million people out of a total population of 60 million, have no religious belief at all. Read full story here.
So on the one hand, just under a quarter of the population describe themselves as having no religion at all, yet almost 70% still regard themselves as Christian, even if they no longer attend church services. As I often found during my managerial career, statistics can always be manipulated if you’re clever or unscrupulous enough, to say what you want them to say. Altogether confusing isn’t it?
Naturally the secularists are extremely happy about this state of affairs, as they see it as further proof of the “long term decline in church attendance.” Certainly with a regular attendance of just 1.13 million at its services, the Church of England has a mountain to climb if it’s going to encourage some of its deserted flock to return. This does not mean to say that there aren’t areas where the church is thriving, and contrary to what the ONS and the Secular Society will have you believe, there seems to be plenty of participation among the younger members of society. At my local church – Holy Trinity in Clayhanger – the music is often led by teenagers, something which I have personally witnessed across all Christian denominational services I have attended in the past. As a parent, I know from experience that getting young people motivated to attend a church service or engage in some other related activity isn’t difficult. The challenge is to maintain that enthusiasm in the face of so many other pressures, particularly in the secular world, where the cult of celebrity worship presented by the X-Factor and OK magazine seem to offer a lifestyle attainable only by a lucky few, and even then, with a very short shelf-life.
My own spiritual journey from baptised Roman Catholic to Anglican convert continues as before. I have found the friendliness and support I have received from the local Anglican community immensely re-assuring, when continuing to take those steps I started on back in August. The birth of my Grandson some 5 weeks ago has added further impetus to this journey, for I would like him to grow up in a world where organised religion doesn’t become a minority pastime and where churches, particularly the established ones, continue to provide spiritual comfort and guidance from the oldest to the youngest.
Last weekend, the other half and I were in York at a reception held by her employers. On the Sunday morning I achieved a personal ambition of visiting another great cathedral, York Minster, which looked absolutely stunning in the autumn sunshine. Having first done the touristy bit, I joined the congregation for choral matins, something I had never experienced before. As I sat in the Quire – see picture below – listening to the great cathedral organ and the wonderful choristers, I became totally absorbed by the beauty not only of the music, but by the text found in the Book of Common Prayer.
While this high-church ritual may not necessarily find favour with those who prefer a more evangelical approach, I came out feeling I had been part of something very special, as did the other fifty of so other people who also took part.
Perhaps Mr Keith Porteus-Wood from The National Secular Society, can explain that one!