Dawkins: superficially right but profoundly wrong

Richard Dawkins appeared on the Today programme recently to say that the finding of the 2001 census that 70% of the population identify themselves as Christian cannot be used to claim that Britain remains a Christian country.  He based his argument on the results of an Ipsos MORI poll commissioned by his Foundation.  This reveals that only a very small percentage of those who see themselves as Christian say it is because they believe in what Christianity teaches.  They say it is because they have Christian parents or were baptised or go to Church sometimes.  This leads Dawkins to say that the claim that we are a Christian country is false and that, therefore, the privileged place of Christianity in education, the House of Lords and so forth cannot be justified.  Nothing could better illustrate the one-dimensional nature of his thinking. Continue reading

Reasons to be cheerful: 1, 2, 3

Five years of austerity ahead, a rolling crisis in the Eurozone which could make things a lot worse yet, rising unemployment, prospects for business poor.  We are all less well off than we were – some of us horribly so.  Riots in recent memory, public sector strikes, the media in the dock, politicians distrusted, the Church in denial.  This is the worst things have looked for a long time.  It is all bad news.  And if I look for comfort elsewhere what do I find?  Wall-to-wall celebrity culture, reality telly, karaoke freak shows masquerading as pop music and rock music practically dead.  Have I missed anything?

So, I’m looking around for some reasons to be cheerful.  Continue reading

Artists, the church and thinking differently

In an article on the Art and Sacred Places website (see http://www.artandsacredplaces.org/Comment.html) Bishop John Gladwin speaks of the role that art can play in adding the voice of contemporary feeling and concern to the complex story of faith and culture embodied in the church building. I would like to consider another reason why artists have a great deal to offer the church and its community.

For centuries the church was at the centre of public life.  It defined it and provided both public and private meaning.  In these days the church is no longer at the centre of our culture and no longer a focus of unity.  (There will be many, including Christian believers, who do not regret this change reflecting a conviction, sometimes borne out in history, that political power does not bring out the best in religion.)  Instead, even though the Church of England remains established and its leaders are still public figures, the experience of being in the church is often that of being part of a rather embattled minority. Continue reading

Talk is far from cheap

Every Sunday evening I gather with a small group in Church and talk about stuff.  It’s always one of the best bits of the week.  I think it demonstrates the power of community and value of community.

In my last post I referred to my lack of engagement with the typical Church of England Sunday morning fare.  Though my theme was the power of taking the Church’s words out into ‘the world’ I acknowledged that the Church could do more to bring the words to life in its own context.

So I thought I’d add a word about my own favourite service, the six o’clock eucharist at St James in Weybridge.  The format is a simple spoken conventional communion service attended by anything between 5 and 20 people.  It has a generally informal feel, but its distinguishing feature is the simple innovation of holding a discussion where there would normally be a sermon.  Continue reading

Take the word out into the world

Last Saturday I had what was for me, a unique experience.  I conducted a wedding and went to the reception simultaneously.  Actually it was a service of dedication following a civil ceremony, but that doesn’t sound so good.  This service took place in a marquee in Ade and Sarah’s garden.  The guests, including me and my wife Annabelle, rocked up, were served Pimms, and after some chat in the garden, were all ushered to our places in the marquee.  All the guests sat at their places at the tables, having taken their drinks with them.   I went to the stage at the front and awaited the arrival, in procession from the back of the tent, of the bride and groom. Continue reading