Thought for the Week – 4th December 2022
This week, the UK Office of Census and Population has announced that for the first time, those identifying as Christians are a minority in this country; 46% put down their religion as Christianity in the 2021 census, compared to 72% in the 2001 census. I suspect I am not alone amongst vicars in being surprised that the figure saying that they are Christian is as high as 46%; it sometimes feels more like 4.6%. The number of people who regularly attend church has certainly been falling for many decades, but I suspect the census is actually showing us that people are now more honest about their spirituality, at least up to a point, by admitting that they have nothing that they want to call a religious faith.
When we consider what we believe in, be it the God of Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ or humanism and power of reason, it is essential that we are honest with ourselves. If the census now reflects that honesty, I welcome it. But questions remain. What are the values that we really follow? What is it that inspires us, moves us, drives us? My suspicion is that for many of the 46% who still identify as Christian, the daily inspiration for their lives is not Jesus Christ, although doubtless they have some connection with him. Equally, for the 34% who identify as having no religious faith, there will be a significant number who will recognise something spiritual in their lives, even if they prefer not to call that “God”. That is a decision that I hope I always respect, but my faith is that we cannot shut what I call God out of our existence. What I call the Holy Spirit is active in all lives, calling us to become more fully human, to live richer lives. Perhaps that Holy Spirit is also not to bothered what people chose to call her/him; the Spirit simply wants us to respond.
Rev David Poyner