Andy Hawes 


Being a Minority


It is official; Christians are now a minority in England and Wales. The number of those who practise their faith is a very small number indeed. In my experience, organisations that have a Christian foundation have become largely secular. This is certainly true of schools where many secondary schools designated as Christian are extremely secular. Recent changes in society in the area of marriage and sexual ethics are examples of how orthodox Christian perspectives have been cast aside. There is also a widespread ignorance and sneering disdain in much of the media with regard to the Christian faith.

Inevitably this has a real effect on the spiritual atmosphere in which we live and work, and it can seep into our souls creating a deep sense of unease and insecurity. I am not used to being on the margins of society, but now I am. I venture to guess that I am not alone in working out how to live and pray in this new reality. There are many pressures to fall away from regular worship and many people have. For some there is a real crisis of confidence in the Faith. This is without considering the current financial and organisational crisis in the church.

I suggest five areas to explore in prayer and thought (alone or with others). First, avoid nostalgia. It is too easy to travel down the road into a rosy past, it does not help, and it is not a Christian approach to the present. In the whole of New Testament there is not the slightest hint of looking back. To follow Jesus is to reject nostalgia and embrace today. It is true the psalms are full of wistful looking back to better and faithful times and these can help us pray our way into a more positive and hopeful spirit. I am thinking particularly of psalm 12 ‘there is not one godly man left,’ and psalm 74 ‘arise O God maintain thine own cause’; there are others, psalm 53 being one.

Secondly, pray in the reality of our situation. Allow the challenges and confusion of the present time come into prayer. Prayer is not an escape, but a creative way to meet challenges and difficulties, again the psalms are full of this seeking and yearning for understanding.

Thirdly, follow the advice of St Ignatius which is to ‘go against,’ in a deliberate way, difficulties and challenges. If the temptation is to reduce attendance at church go twice as much, if you are finding prayer difficult, pray more. As we enter Lent make a rule to replace your consumption of media with music, film or books which are full of goodness and light. Make an effort to lead yourself out of temptation.

Fourthly, stick together! For faith to thrive, the Christian community must thrive. Do not allow your membership and involvement to slip. Seek out fellowship where you can pray and learn with others.

Finally, and perhaps most challenging; recognise and relish the vocation of being a Christian is the present age when our prayer and our witness are so vital to the coming of the Kingdom of God. Now is the time to remember the commission of our baptism – ‘to fight valiantly as a soldier of Christ to the end of your life.’