There has been great attention recently to the most recent British Social Survey which seems to reveal a virtual collapse in our nation of people identifying as Christian. In 1988 44% identified as Anglican and by 2018 it had fallen to 12%. The proportion of young people has shrunk to an even greater degree and most have nothing other than the vaguest notion about the most basic facts of any faith.
The one bright spot seems to be the rise of what might be called non-denominational Christians, up from 3% in 1988 to a point where it has now overtaken the Church of England at 13%. Churches like the Australian Hillsong Church (which now has branches all over the world) and others attract huge crowds of millennials using a mixture of high production worship and music. Haywards Heath has several independent congregations, whilst the Burgess Hill branch of The King’s Church is a vibrant community.
All this is to the good. If people (particular young folk) are drawn to the knowledge of the Hope we believe to be found in Jesus Christ, that is wonderful. The only caveats I have are the very conservative nature of many of these churches (with a seeming intolerance of the other – female leadership and sexual difference most particularly) together with what seems to be little communication of the sense of unity with other Christians within the Body of Christ.
I’m not a great one for churches who proclaim that they are this, that or the other, or give great lists of how welcome people are through the doors. In this regard, I would hope that anyone who comes to Holy Trinity, Cuckfield would know that they are loved and accepted, full stop. As Paul said, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3: 28)
As to styles of worship. I am relaxed. I believe that liturgy is what it means – the work of the people. Both more formal (where we have connection with nearly 2,000 years of tradition) and modern informal services, work for me. I think that there is room for both. We are fortunate that at Holy Trinity we are able to offer a wide range of worship. Most importantly, in whatever we do may we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit within our community, drawing alongside the downtrodden, despairing, poor and lost – meeting people where they are and enabling them to journey in knowing Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life.