In the House Group that I belong to we have been following a Course entitled ‘New World Old Faith’. We began by hearing about a 90th Birthday party. As friends and family gathered, they reflected with admiration and astonishment on the life of this great lady. She was born into a world without Radio, TV or Airports. The occasional car was a novelty. She spoke of her amazement at meeting a black man when she was seven. Doctors, policemen and teachers (they were all men) were highly regarded. The proverbial (and we might add dangerous) ‘Clip round the ear’ was enough to control most young people.
Suing a hospital for failing to give appropriate treatment was unheard of. Family Life was more or less stable, if not always happy. Divorce was rare, expensive, and difficult. Two world wars would shake that stability although no one knew it then.
In her childhood church attendance was high, though not universal. Uniformed movements for young people flourished and most of the nation’s children attended Sunday School. Britain was a Christian Country which Celebrated Empire Day and non-Christians were Heathens.
The term ‘multicultural’ had not been invented. The word environment was seldom used and ‘PC’ meant police constable and nothing else. Feminism was vigorous though known by a different name, but few people dreamt of women Priests. Almost every family had a ‘bread-winner’ and he was male. The idea of ‘Sex Education’ would have shocked most people, child abuse was as widespread as it is today but not openly discussed.
Church Leaders felt secure. They were not always popular but they did count for something. Relationships between the churches were usually less cordial than they are today. Church was Church of England, Chapel was everything else except for Catholics that is. No one grumbled about the NHS because there wasn’t one. There was no war against terrorism. The concept of ‘World War’ was about to be invented.
Four generations had gathered at that party, the youngest was but a few weeks old. He will grow up in a world where computer screens are as common as books or perhaps some new invention will replace both. It is highly likely that he will visit three or more Continents, but unlikely that he will stand on the moon. He will certainly be able to shop day or night, seven days a week and is quite likely to live to over a 100 years. Gender balance’ may become a problem as more parents choose the sex of their children.
It is indeed a new world and as we enter into 2014 perhaps we need to reflect a little on the old faith. Has Christianity fared well? How can the old faith engage effectively with the new world? Should it adapt and change in an attempt to fit in? The church faces these challenges as it seeks to revise its practice whilst honouring and cherishing the faith that has been passed down to us from Jesus himself: now there’s a challenge.
Perhaps a few questions would help. Ask yourself what are the most striking changes that have taken place in your lifetime? Do you regard them as positive or negative? What changes have modern feminists brought about in Church and Country? Do you welcome these changes? How should the church adapt to Modern Society? Should it exert a strong influence against some modern trends? If so, which and why? As we ask ourselves these questions lets ponder on the words of Harry Williams a great Christian writer, he says ‘Christian experience is not so much a matter of imitating a leader as accepting and receiving a new quality of life infinitely more profound and dynamic and meaningful than human life without Christ!
So as we celebrate his coming to us, standing with us in all our deliberations and changes. Let us remember that he is Emanuel God with us wherever our brave new world takes us.
(The article by Jenny was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in January 2014)