2nd December 2022

Today is our wedding anniversary, and one of the earliest lessons I learnt from marriage is that sometimes men and women use language quite differently, even when employing the same words. Communicating one’s ideas and opinions accurately requires careful attention, and I know after forty-four years of trying that I’ve still not cracked it. Was what I meant to convey what was actually received at the other end?

The news of the 2021 Census results revealing that for the first time less than half the population of England and Wales regards themselves as Christian is undoubtedly sobering, though in truth not that surprising because it’s been coming for years. Of course, many a question is being begged here, not least what was meant by ‘christian’. It’s highly unlikely that most filling in their form were narrowly focusing their self-designation as Christians (or not!) upon the redemptive purposes of God in Jesus Christ. More probably it was based on a largely unexamined, amorphous cultural bundle taking in history, monarchy, architecture, music, charitable works, Sunday observance, patriarchy and (for some at least) reactionary small-mindedness.

More depressing was the news that now over a third report themselves as having no religion at all, up from a quarter a decade ago. The determinedly secular mood of our times is a headwind that doesn’t make it easy to commend faith to others, but I do wonder whether what we in the Church may think we’re communicating to our society is what’s being received. Our ‘good news’ seems as welcome as junk mail, so perhaps our words and deeds aren’t quite as clear as we intend and hope.

Ken Stewart