I had mixed feelings when I heard about the Union of Welsh Independent’s protest the other day about the fact that Jane Hutt, the Welsh devolved Government’s Minister for Education, had passed that it was no longer compulsory for sixth formers to attend religious assembly at school. Here I will try an share some of my thoughts on the matter.
Although I agree that we must strive to defend our Christian heritage, one could only come to the conclusion that the protest the other day comes from that conservative in us all, our inherent conservatism to just keep things as they are. Everyone feels safer if the status quo is kept. I’m sure that the best way the Church can deal with secularism in Wales today is to acknowledge its existence and then move to tackle it head on. One must get to grips with it rather than deny and ignore it in a bid to hold on to the Wales that was. We must not dream romantically about the past but rather dream prophetically about the Wales of the future with Christ back at the centre of our nation’s life. As Christians we shouldn’t claim an institutional superiority over other communities of faith and the secularists. We must introduce Christ as our personal and loving Lord and Saviour rather than thrust him upon people at an institutionalized level, be it in a school assembly or other. At it’s core the Christian faith is a simple and attractive alternative to modern day helpless, consumerist, dog eats dog world; but our national institutions, both religious and secular, have distorted the Christian message with it’s old dry and fruitless traditions.
As a Church we must adjust so we can survive and then prosper in this new post-Christendom World we’re now living in. As congregationalists the Union of Welsh Independents should know that their tradition, I thought anyway, sees Christendom as a bad thing and that throughout their traditions history they have emphasized the need to see the Church and State separated. This, amongst other things, should mean religious freedom in state schools – their line this past week condemning Jane Hutt was not consistent with their tradition. It’s a different matter of course if the Church itself would offer to go into the schools to take the odd Religious Studies or Citizenship classes, in-fact I have some friends who are involved in this type of work. But it’s a different matter all together for the school itself to conduct religious services.
As Christendom falls before our very eyes we must, as ever, turn to God’s Word. In the Book of Acts we can see what the Church pre-Christendom was like, and it’s there we can see what our Church, post-Christendom, should be like.