Church is not in decline

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The refusal by the Church of England to place the words ‘Free Spirit’ on a loved one’s grave shows an incredible insensitivity towards the Crammond family.

I am sure the vast majority of church folk deeply regret the hurt inflicted upon them.

Not surprisingly, one offshoot of this unfortunate incident has been to provide a platform for a bit of church bashing. Derek Stocker gloomily refers to people losing faith and church attendance dropping to an all time low. Mick Sargent suggests that we care more for the adoration of fictitious gods than for ‘real’ people. Such sweeping statements need to be challenged.

While some traditional patterns of church life may be in decline many new expressions of faith are evident. The vibrant King’s Church has a membership of more than 500. The lively Sonrise Church has taken over the old St Peter’s Church in Bohemia. There is a new congregation at the former Robertson Street United Reformed Church. Three weeks ago a dynamic new ministry began at Holy Trinity in the town centre.

In these, and churches of a more traditional nature there is a strong sense of commitment and practical faith engaging with people’s needs at all levels of society.

Far from being in terminal decline, churches are involved with food banks, accommodation for the homeless, street pastors, night church in the Old Town and town centre, work among the elderly, families, young people, schools and university, the bereaved, the unemployed, plus projects meeting human need in the Third World. And at the heart of it all ‘real’ people are finding a new sense of self-worth, forgiveness, purpose, love and acceptance through the transforming power of Christ.

Christianity is much bigger than a few faceless people on a church committee – it’s ‘Good News in a Bad News world’ – and the churches of our town strive to be an embodiment of that Good News (yes, we make some gaffs at times). To Derek, Mick and other readers who think we’re in terminal decline - Wake up, get a life, there is a lot to do and so much to celebrate.

Revd Canon John Fletcher

Hoads Wood Road