Recently on my Welsh blog and in my column in the Welsh Christian magazine Cristion (“Christian”) I have been encouraging people to look beyond institutionalized religion so that they can re-discover Biblical Christianity and re-discover Christ himself for themselves. I have even referred to such sayings as: “Everyday people are leaving the Church and coming Back to God” and “Jesus – OK, Church – No Way!”.
The problem is that the Welsh have an odd relationship with the Church. The love and dig Church on one hand, a lot of Welsh speakers, in-fact the majority of middle-class Welsh speakers, are still members of main-line denominational Churches. They pay their membership fees, they turn up at Christmas Carol meetings, at Easter and turn up for the odd communion service during the rest of the year. They love baptizing their babies and they wouldn’t be seen dead getting married in a registry office. But in reality their commitment to their Church is somewhat lax if they indeed show any commitment at all.
Most Welsh speakers tend to treat the Church like the Cinema. It’s somewhere you go to when convenient and you don’t have anything else on. You just turn up sit down listen through the service and stand up and walk out and go home at the end; perhaps to return again in a few weeks or even months. You take it for granted that someone else will keep the cogs turning so you can just turn up when it suits you.
Dr. Tudur Jones, who’s life and work I research for my PhD, had a funny on one hand and sad on the other story about this phenomenon. This old nonconformist Church had around a hundred members on it’s books but the weekly congregation had dwindled down to the faithful 10 or so. Those 10 members decided it would be better for them to bring the cause to an end and join another Church down the road so they called a members meeting to vote on the matter. Having heard about the motion being put forward the majority of the other 90 “invisible” members made an effort and turned up to the Church meeting to voice their disapproval of the idea to bring the cause to an end. The Church membership therefore voted to keep the Church open. The following Sunday it was the 10 faithful members in the congregation once again and they were heart broken.
A similar story arose at the time of the publishing of the New Welsh Bible in 1988. The Bible Society insisted that a large run of 25,000 (I think) soft back editions be printed because soft back was in fashion internationally in the Bible world and soft back could be sold more cheaply and this would bring the Bible, the Word of God, to more Welshmen. The Bible Society obviously didn’t understand the Welsh because nearly all 25,000 copies went unsold and they nearly got pulped – someone intervened in the end and they got distributed out to Schools instead. But what this episode in the history of the Welsh Bible tells us is that the Welsh don’t read their Bible but if they’re going to get one they want a hard-back so it can look good on the book shelf.
What I’m hinting at here is that it’s not real Church and Christ that the Welsh dig but rather, I fear, ceremonial religion. And that, unfortunately, is nothing more than superstition. Over this I pray.