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Big questions

One last one from the flower festival: the washing up. They just picked a convenient tomb near the door and set up the wash basin. So, there you go.

In our own church celebrations, I’ve been shocked to see wine cooling in the baptismal font and people playing at boules among the graves.

I wish I could convey to you the English attitude to church, at least down here. Remember, I come from a place where church is intense and Jesus-y. The closest church to the family farm was Foot-Washing Baptist (we weren’t members, though). It’s just a whole ‘nother thing.

Church is obviously important to many here, and they put a lot of effort into keeping things going. It is very much about maintaining these beautiful and terribly expensive old buildings. This particular church pre-dates the Norman Conquest — it’s Saxon, for cri-yi.

But it would be a mistake to say the attitude is entirely material and not at all spiritual. There is a sense of the fitness of the ancient rituals, of observing the appropriate rites of birth, marriage and death and the seasonal observances. But, really, I do think many of these churchgoers believe in God and think their prayers go someplace.

It’s all very puzzling.

Now, the big question — the fact they’re nearly all Of A Certain Age, does it mean their kind will die out with this generation, or will the next generation of oldsters step in and take their place? In perpetuity?


Comment from Uncle Al
Time: August 21, 2014, 10:01 pm

I believe the correct answer to your big question is #2. I’m fascinated by the almost but not quite inevitable sequence of changes people go through as they age. I turned 65 last May and so I’ve had some decades to watch this happen to friends and family…and to myself. While I don’t think that those who have never had any affinity for religion/faith are very likely to develop any (although it does happen from time to time), as people get older their appreciation for history and tradition tends to increase. So, step in they will.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 21, 2014, 10:09 pm

Is that Bob Dylan in the background?

Comment from neal
Time: August 21, 2014, 10:38 pm

David danced before the Lord. Holy Ground, Haunted Ground.

Sometimes, One works with what They have Got.

Comment from Mrs Compton
Time: August 21, 2014, 11:26 pm

Love the sippy cup on the headstone.

Comment from Nina
Time: August 21, 2014, 11:33 pm

I believe it, and have for a very long time, so age doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with it.

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: August 22, 2014, 1:08 am

With all due respect, I think that this is the last generation in Britain that will have any tie to Christianity. There are certain places where the civil and the religious overlap; but they are not critical.

From what I can see, the generation following really does not care about the Christian religion. I may be biased in that, since I read Brit papers including the Daily Mail. Christianity in Britain being largely C of E [such having been settled rather kinetically], it is the telltale for the status of religious life in Britain. The Archbishop of Canterbury immediately prior to the current incumbent, supreme bishop of that church and while in office, declared that Muslim Sharia Law should be accommodated in Britain in 2008. Whatever statistical body that tracks such things announced that once you take into consideration variant spellings in English; that the most common name for male children in Britain last year was Mohammed. I rather suspect that the bearers of that name are not being raised in a wholly secular manner.

Things do not look good. Mind you, they don’t seem that hot here; but I hope that you and Uncle Badger keep passports close and an eye on a fallback position.

Subotai Bahadur

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: August 22, 2014, 1:34 am

The thing is, from what I’ve read, this isn’t about religion, God, or faith, its about tradition and vague spirituality. The church isn’t seen as a place of love and worship for God, it seems more a sort of lodge or club house for British history and culture.

That’s not to say there’s no faith or religious devotion in England, its just that there’s so little, according to the ministers I’ve read from there 🙁

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 22, 2014, 9:47 am

Christopher Taylor – We’ve had our flings with religious certainty and they haven’t worked out awfully well, as they rarely seem to.

This unwillingness (inability?) to get passionate is both a blessing and a curse. It makes the place quite calm and peaceful but also allows outrageous things to be done – such as the invasion that has taken place, alluded to by Subotai Bahadur. That called for insurrection, not indifference.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 22, 2014, 3:26 pm

What I’m trying to do is draw a distinction between Britain as described in the pages of the Daily Mail, and Britain as I’m experiencing it day to day in a rural community. There is more religion here than I expected from descriptions. And, while it is vastly different from Christianity as I experienced it in the States, I’m not arrogant enough to say it isn’t vividly real.

That would be pretty unChristian, neh?

Comment from Tibby
Time: August 22, 2014, 4:47 pm

I find it interesting that this whole topic is devoted to the aging of Christians, sort of, but no one has mentioned that the photo has what looks to be young parents and a child in the forefront. Seems to answer the question about the next generation stepping up to me.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: August 23, 2014, 1:05 am

Its actually not too tough to measure depth of faith and adherence to Christianity: its not zeal or emotion, its what you believe and why. If you reject basic things about the religion, you’re not part of it.

Comment from Veeshir
Time: August 23, 2014, 1:21 am

Italy has the same attitude about religion and churches.

It’s weird.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 23, 2014, 10:43 am

I’ve never met anyone I thought well represented all the basic tenets of Christianity, Christopher. For example, judging the strength of someone else’s relationship to God — from afar, based newspaper articles — is pretty far outside the bounds as I understand them. That whole “motes and beams” thing.

Do you know, by the way, rural England is lousy with devout Jehovah’s Witnesses? There’s something you don’t get from the headlines.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: August 28, 2014, 8:25 pm

Europe has in general become “post-Christian”. The great heritage of ancient churches belongs to the “established” churches, which are on their last legs. Whatever Christian enthusiasm is left would be found in independent evangelical churches, I think. Vide the JWs/.

So I think the churches will be abandoned, except as relics. They will be maintained, if at all, as “heritage sites” by the government or preservationist groups.

As to solution #2 – I don’t think so. I do recall hearing a story about a new worker in the marketing arm of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This chap came to the CSO’s management in a state of great alarm. He presented a study which showed that the median age of season ticket buyers was around 55. Soon they would die off and the CSO would have no audience. Therefore the CSO should immediately embark on a big campaign aimed at young people.

The bosses heard him out, then pulled out a stack of similar studies, dating back over 30 years.

But religion is not the same as recreation. Churches used to have lots of child and youth participation: Sunday Schools, choirboys. That’s nearly all gone, I think.

Forty years ago, Wales was full of devout Methodists who could sing their way through a hymnal from front to back to front again. Almost none are left.

Ireland is importing priests from Africa to fill vacant pulpits.

Basically, Europeans have lost the habit of religion, and I don’t see how it can restart.

That, and the lost habit of begetting children. Even some Catholic countries have seen fertility drop to minimal levels.

Comment from JC
Time: August 30, 2014, 11:15 pm

@David, no, I’m pretty sure that’s Keef Richards

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 31, 2014, 1:54 pm

Steve Tyler.

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