When I became a Christian I did so against the backdrop of a cold secularism that had invaded Britain in the 1950's after the Second World War. Despite the popularity of Billy Graham rallies it was a time of ever deepening secularization-and I was searching for more from life than a godless environment and the then growing consumer capitalism and hedonism of the 60's. My family encouraged a rebellion in me because they were not Christians at all which I particularly felt at Christmas when the celebrations seemed hollow without any acknowledgement of the real meaning of Christmas. So I at 14 years old, I took myself off to church. The fact no-one spoke to me didnt deter me and some 3 years later I joined a confirmation group at a local Anglican church and was confirmed by the Red Dean.
I spent time working in a Methodist national children's charity. Then I was employed by the church working with the young homeless and building and running an adventure playground. I found in the church a new family, a glimpse at various lifestyles inspired by Christian ethics and concern for others both locally and in the wider world. I found a vibrant community for my children and many activities ranging from the global ethics of Fairtrade to peacemaking. It was a good time.
Many years have elapsed and since then Ive grown up as a follower of Jesus. Ive been ordained. Ive spent far too much time in denominational activity and am now faced with a different reality-the church I love has almost gone. Mike Riddell, the Kiwi writer, many years ago talked of the church being "white anted". There appears to be an external structure but there is nothing inside. In its place is a desperate shell, without children and young people, hanging on for dear life. Meaningless national strategies have zapped the lifeblood out of the churches. The leadership of the main churches in Britain continue with their agendas despite obvious failure. There has been a constant joining together of disparate, distant churches with clergy who can do little other than conduct services and chair meetings. The net result is the effect of attaching one drowning man onto another-so they both drown! The amounts taken from churches nationally for payment of clergy means small churches close. The constant drain on resources of churches that are cold, rarely open and fail to minister to any flock and make strangers unwelcome is widespread. There are of course exceptions but they are struggling. This is just the beginning of a problem that has facets.