Church of England reaches out to youth in postmodern societycomment (0)
July 26, 2012
By Ava Thomas
Snowflakes dance around the old stone church and dust the detailed crevices of its exterior like highlights.
Snow is not common in southern England, but Lizzie Baker’s getting accustomed to seeing it blanket the town around her church a little more frequently than it used to.
Much like political correctness does.
“There are growing dangers of having to water down your faith to be acceptable in this culture,” said Baker, youth minister at Holy Trinity Church, Redhill, U.K. “It’s a post-modern society. There is no truth. ‘Whatever you believe, that’s fine’ — that’s the pervasive thought.”
But it is another thought entirely that keeps the youth worker trudging out in the snow every week to nearby schools to talk to teenagers.
“We know we have a God who is God over all,” she said.
And she would like for these students to meet Him.
In some respects the spiritual landscape of England does not look too different from that of the States, Baker said. British people put great stock in security — money, family, cars and houses.
“It’s really hard for people to see that they need God when they have such self-sufficiency,” she said.
But one factor is pretty different from the U.S. There is no separation of church and state. This is seen as a blessing by some and as a curse by others, Baker said.
She chooses to see it as a blessing.
With the Church of England’s government ties comes a state requirement that schools teach religion, and that allows Baker access to classrooms, assemblies and teenagers she would not otherwise get to meet. She teaches the gospel message, the tenets of the faith, and sometimes holds reflection times for the student body with prayer and devotionals.
The arrangement comes with the catch that other religions, not just Christianity, can be taught, which “is really, really hard, because then you are just one voice amongst many,” Baker said. “You have to caveat everything you say with ‘as a Christian I believe,’ or ‘as the Bible says.’”
But it opens doors to talk to teenagers, so she considers it an opportunity.
She looks similarly at the Church of England church where she serves.
She grew up in a Baptist church, a “free” church, and there she chose to follow Christ. But the Church of England demonstrates beauty in a different way from Baker — a field snowy white unto harvest. It comes in all brands and styles across its 16,000 congregations — from liturgical to charismatic, contemporary to traditional.
British folks often attend their local Church of England as a cultural institution, a place legally and sentimentally part of their community and family. Weddings, funerals, the baptisms of their children — all are theirs by law, regardless of their personal spiritual state.
It is a ripe missions field that has shown much fruit, Baker said.
The vicar, or parish priest, at her church often speaks to the congregation about the liturgy and doctrine ingrained in the Church of England, explaining its personal spiritual relevance and connection to Christ.
“When you go back to the real history of the church, there’s such a beautiful foundation there,” Baker said. “The Church of England has its roots deep, but the government is moving further and further from the truth, walking away from our Christian heritage. We need a boldness and conviction to stand up for the truth and not water down the gospel.”