Visit any city, town or village practically anywhere in Europe and there will be one building they have in common – a church.
The symbols in that building, the cross, altar, candles, will be familiar whether or not you consider yourself to be a Christian, or as belonging to another faith community or none. The symbols, ideas and biblical stories permeate the whole of European culture in art, literature, and music. Christian institutions over the centuries have encouraged the sciences and philosophical enquiry. The history of this part of the world, its values and political institutions have been formed under its influence.
Today Christianity is still the dominant religion in Europe, even though it is not as widely practiced as in previous era. A feature of European society today is that it is more pluralistic. Regular Church attendance has been in decline. But what is perhaps more surprising, is that at the beginning of C21 still so many people find it has meaning in their lives.
The problem is that with fewer people having regular direct contact with the Church, the essence of what Christianity is really all about is often distorted through its presentation in popular media, or by teaching that seems only to focus on behaviour control, rather than the freedom it offers to explore ideas and develop a sense of purpose in life. Many of the widely read critical articles dismissing all religion, pre-suppose beliefs that few Christians hold. Christianity is about entering into a personal relationship with God through the role model of Jesus Christ. For each individual this relationship will evolve over time. It is a personal journey. Christianity, especially as practiced in the Anglican tradition, is a religion that encourages discourse and reflection. Doubt is allowed!
Human beings are inherently spiritual. If you start to explore your own spirituality, you might be surprised at what you find out about yourself! Then perhaps the Gospel of Jesus Christ might start to make some sense. It will also undoubtedly provoke many questions. But whatever our beliefs, each of us has at some time in our life to face questions about its meaning and purpose, and how to live it. Faith communities provide the opportunity to be supported in facing such questions.
Below are some modern writings that provide an introduction to Christian belief in the Anglican tradition. As you start to ask questions you might reach a point when you feel
it would be useful to discuss things with someone else. The church is a good place to meet others who are exploring the same questions. Church ministers are good consultants on the matter and discrete listeners!
Please do not hesitate to contact the Chaplain if you would like to enquire further.
A more detailed general introduction to the Christian Faith can be found on the Church of England web site.
The BBC web site on Religion and Ethics provides a very helpful summary of more or less all world religions and the different Christian traditions.
The Christian Enquiry Agency website provides information for people who want to find out about the Christian faith and its founder Jesus Christ, independently of any denominational viewpoint.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams rose to the challenge of presenting Christianity in an hour long lecture to Islamic students during a visit to Pakistan in 2005. To find out how he did this read his lecture here.
A more recent lecture “What Difference Does it Make?’ – The Gospel in Contemporary Culture” relates faith to contemporary society. It is also available as a PDF here.
These and other articles can be found on the web page of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Two slightly contrasting introductions to Christianity, the first traditional, the second a bit more liberal, but both within the Anglican tradition are:
- Simply Christian (London SPCK, 2006) Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham and a distinguished New Testament Scholar.
- Christianity: A Guide for the Perplexed
Keith Ward – former Professor of Divinity at Oxford University.
And then there is of course the Bible, though this is a difficult text to tackle alone!