LONDON — It’s easy to find churches in the heart of the English capital. spotting the faithful is more difficult.
“People are turning away from God. It’s as simple as that,” said George Rae, secretary of the Protestant Truth Society Company, as the nation prepared to bury its monarch earlier this month.
Like thousands of other British businesses and charities, the Society’s bookshop on Fleet Street had displayed a portrait of “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II”, accompanied, in this case, by a quote from the book of Job: ” The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
A few months earlier, the organization published a Platinum Jubilee commemorative booklet, highlighting the Queen’s role as a defender of the faith and praising her “faithful and courageous witness”.
Now he was mourning the passing of his Most Gracious Sovereign.
“The Queen, I believe, has been a stabilizing force in the country. We have heard that she is a queen of faith, a woman of faith, which I believe. She has influenced the church in many ways, but it has not, in my opinion, been confirmed by church attendance and so on,” he said.
British Christianity can be summed up in one word, he says: “lukewarm”.
Today less than one in 100 Britons worship in an Anglican parish on a typical Sunday.
Attendance also dropped dramatically in the Church of Scotland.
St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh saw a momentary spike in visitors this month, but only because it was the site of the Queen’s pre-London, he said.
“There have been more people coming through those doors, I believe, in the last 24 hours than in the last 10 or 15 years,” he said.
These days, the church is seen by many as just a place for funerals, he said.
“We just hope it becomes a place of saving grace for many more people,” he added.
Visitors to the UK come across evidence of its Christian past. Bell towers dominate the streets of the city, testifying to the loyalty of previous generations. Church bells provide auditory reminders.
But inside, empty benches are the rule rather than the exception.
The country that gave the world the King James Bible and exported missionaries around the world is now a mission field itself.
“Cultural Christianity is certainly dying, but not completely dead in the UK,” said Ryan King, an Arkansan who is pastor of Grace Baptist Church Wood Green in London.
“Familiarity with the Bible or understanding of the Christian faith can no longer be assumed, if ever it could be. The Church of England has been in steep decline, with only 10% of its churches growing. This is true across the country, especially in Protestant mainstream congregations that are more inclined towards the leadership of theological liberalism,” he said in an email.
While the old established church is struggling, there are areas that are going against the trends.
“Churches that can be variously described in the data as ‘evangelical’, ‘non-traditional’, ‘theologically conservative’, ‘black majority’ and ‘multicultural’ are, however, statistically growing, even though, conversely , they become more socially marginalized,” he said. wrote.
“…On the one hand, the outlook is very bleak and even where there is growth, evangelical Christian ministry here is very difficult and under-resourced, lacking the generational wealth, assets and social status of the established Church. On the other hand, he is very optimistic, and the trajectory of authentic Christian faith and practice is positive.”
Although she was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth has made ecumenical inroads during her 70 years on the throne.
As his family prepared for his private funeral service in Westminster, Catholics gathered at Westminster Cathedral for a solemn Requiem Mass.
The changing face of religion in the UK was also reflected in the order of service for Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Along with representatives from the Church of England and Church of Scotland, prayers were also led on Monday by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster; Canon Helen Cameron, moderator of the Free Churches Group; and Shermara Fletcher, Senior Pentecostal, Charismatic and Multicultural Relations Officer at Churches Together in England.
Religious leaders, almost uniformly, praised their late ruler.
But the widespread love for Queen Elizabeth, a street preacher said, made her faith suspect.
“I am convinced that if our dear sovereign were truly born again, we would know,” he said. “If you stand up for the Gospel, people will hate you.”
Love for the Queen – and admiration for her Christian witness – was evident elsewhere in the city.
‘HAVE A GOOD RACE’
“I am grateful that she is now with the Lord Jesus, for her. She is 96 years old. She had a good run. She kept the faith,” said Phil Martin, vicar of the guild at St. Botolph- Sans-Aldersgate, an Evangelical Anglican. outpost.
Although grateful for the Queen’s example, he acknowledges that Christianity is a minority religion in his home country.
His goal, and that of those around him, is to spread the good news, he said.
Rather than holding Sunday services, St. Botolph’s meets during the week, reaching out to young professionals who flock to the neighborhood for work.
Hostility to the gospel is not a new phenomenon, he said. The Puritans faced it; so did the founder of Methodism – John Wesley, who claimed to have had his heart “strangely warmed” as he sought the Lord along Aldersgate Street.
Almost 300 years later, St. Botolph’s is working to ignite more souls in Aldersgate.
“We see ourselves as a mission outpost in the city,” Martin said. “I see myself as a missionary, really, probably, more than a church leader.”
Allistair Tresidder, a curate of St. Luke’s Hampstead who appeared at St. Botolph last week, said he did not know what would become of the Church of England, but he was confident the Church of Christ will prevail.
“God has his plans. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, the true Church, so I have great hope,” he said.