Churches In England
English Churches |
Before this trip, I’d never thought about church in England. I know almost nothing about the Church of England, the various denominations, or church attendance in England. I’ve now run into 4 families from England who were kind enough to discuss their views on Christianity in England. The disclaimer to this story is that I am only recording what I heard from these 4 families. Clearly, this isn’t enough to draw conclusions about the whole of England as there are many more perspectives.
“Our churches are empty,” a woman said. “I can’t help noticing that America has a church on every corner. I told my husband that these must be just for show but I passed several churches on Sunday and their parking lots were full.”
“Well,” I laughed. “You are in the Bible Belt. However, I travel all over America and many do go to church. There are parts of the country that don’t have as many churches, but the ones that are there are fairly well attended. Have you been to church in England?”
“I went to Sunday School as a child. I go now for weddings, christenings, and funerals.”
“What about God and Jesus? Do you believe?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Most of us in England do, you know. We just don’t think very much about God in our everyday lives. We go about our business not thinking or talking about it. People used to go to church before the war but they stopped.”
“Do you pray or have any kind of relationship with God?” I probed.
“I don’t pray as much as I should, but I do pray. I’m not sure what you mean about a relationship.”
I told her a little about my personal relationship with God. “I feel God’s presence. He communicates with me. Not audibly,” I quickly added as she looked confused. “I had an aunt who heard voices and we locked her up. I can sense His guidance. I love church. I visit all kinds of churches when I travel and feel God’s presence in almost all of them. Why do you think people stopped going to church in England after the war?”
“We don’t get very much from church. Being a Vicar is just a job in England. They don’t offer much in the way of spiritual help or guidance. Now if we had a 9/11, we’d probably go back to church.”
“We went to church before 9/11,” I assured her. “There was an increase in church attendance right after 9/11. The people I meet from New York say the churches really filled up right after 9/11.”
“For us, becoming a minister is a calling from God.,” I continued. "My daughter is in children’s ministry. Not only did she feel that God called her into this profession, she also felt the call of God to work at the church where she serves. Also, the church prayed before they issued what they called a ‘call' to her. Just yesterday, she said, ‘I’m glad God called me to this church.’ Her call from God is a part of her everyday life and she talks about it often. I feel called to do what I’m doing now.”
“It’s not that way in England. I think if it was, maybe we would get more out of church.”
“I hope you get a chance to visit one of those American churches that has a full parking lot,” I said as we parted. “When you get back home, look harder. I can’t believe there aren’t churches in England that are filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. My quick test for a good church is one where you hear the rustle of Bible pages turning, one that is warm and full of laughter, and one that believes in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Another woman I met told me she was a spiritualist. “Does that mean you contact people from the dead?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t, but I go to people who do that for me.”
“Have you ever talked or communicated directly with someone that is dead?”
“No, but I trust the people who are helping me.” About this time, her husband groaned (or should I say growled) and shook his head. She explained, “My husband is not a believer. He thinks this is nonsense. The pub we owned was haunted and he still didn’t believe.”
The husband spoke up. “I never saw any ghosts in that pub. Some customers claimed they did but I never saw any. I’m leaving if she is going to talk about this again.” With that, he got up and stomped off.
“He doesn’t understand,” the wife explained, wistfully shaking her head. “My deceased family members have sent me messages that no one else would know. I have proof the people I visit are getting through.”
“Why do you want to talk to people from the dead?” I wondered aloud.
She looked puzzled. “I guess it is because I don’t want to let go. I need to know they are still there. I miss my grandmother and my sister. I never knew my mom and would like to get to know her now.”
“Do you believe in an afterlife?” I pushed.
“Obviously, if I believe in ghosts. The afterlife has sent me many messages.”
“What about heaven? Do you believe in God and Jesus? Do you consider yourself a Christian?”
“We don’t go to church much in England,” she answered, not answering my question directly. “Truthfully, I never think about God and Jesus unless I have a conversation with someone like you.”
Aha, I thought. So God has been sending other Christians to you. “Was anyone in your family a Christian or did they go to church ?”
“My grandma was a Christian. She raised me after my parents died. She was a Baptist. I used to go to church with her but I haven’t been since childhood, except to weddings, christenings, and funerals.” I got goose bumps as I remembered the scripture about the prayers of saints being in bowls in heaven. I knew God had sent me to her. Her grandmother’s prayers were still in bowls, working for her, long after her grandmother is in heaven.
When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. NASU
“What about the Bible How do you feel about it?” I asked.
“Well, I know the Bible of course, but I don’t read it.” I didn’t ask what she meant by knowing the Bible.
I talked briefly about how to become a Christian and what it meant to me. “I believe the Bible is God’s Holy Word. In the Bible, God answers our questions about our loved ones and the after life. I believe that if your grandmother was a Christian, she is in heaven. Your grandmother probably prayed for you and it sounds as if her prayers are still being answered.” Her husband returned and told her it was time to leave.
“We really didn’t talk about ghosts the entire time,” I assured him. He smiled.
A husband and wife joined us for breakfast, while we were on the Mississippi Queen. Their accent told us they were from England. “I just talked to someone from England yesterday. We talked about church in England. Are there many different kinds of denominations and religions like here?” I asked.
“Certainly,” she said haughtily. “We have the Church of England, Catholics, Presbyterians, Jewish Temples, Baptists, Muslims, and many more. We just don’t go to church the way you do in America.” That conversation was clearly over.
I’ve already written about an English mother and daughter, in America on holiday. You can read about them in the story called Why Church?. in the Daily Journal on June 6th. The daughter reported, “I don’t go to church because I was never taught to. I pray and I think He helps me.”
This mother said, “We believe but are not devout. I don’t go to church but I did turn to them when my husband died. Now that I think about it, they came immediately and took are of us.” She stopped to wipe her eyes.
While this might not be enough to draw conclusions about England, this is a clear indicator of what these 4 families think about God and church. Please take a moment and pray for these people.