I am a very modern religionist. Tots up to date. When I go to church for nourishment, I go to the local in Westbourne. Very pretty it is, with lots of stained glass windows, as you’d expect in an old English church. People do often have their favourite parts of a church. Mine is upstairs, where Plates and Co serve a delicious three course meal for a very reasonable price. And it’s all very romanitcally lit as the sun streams in those stained glass panes. If it upsets you that such a lovely church has been converted into a restaurant – and it did upset some back in 2010 when it happened – then you probably don’t want to know that the downstairs became a Tesco Express convenience store.
Britain is seemingly filled with churches and cathedrals. Every town, village and hamlet has one. At least one. Most of them are hundreds of years old. Quite a number of them are many hundreds of years old. I’ve visited lots of churches. Out of historical interest, never spiritual need. I’m not the odd one out though. Christianity has largely fallen by the wayside in the UK and lost relevance to society in general. Attendance figures were low in the early 80s. They are half that now. They’ll halve again before too long. The average age of the UK church goer, on the other hand, is close to doubling. From mid thirties in 1980 to early fifties today.
More than two thirds of the UK population have no connection to the church at all. I’m pretty sure that without the revenue brought in by weddings, baptisms and funerals, the church as an institution would be in even greater trouble. I’m not sorry that the church is dying on its feet in the UK. Whilst not an atheist, I have no time for any organisation based on hocus pocus. At the same time, I’m not glad the church is in such dire trouble. Many people need to believe in something and churches are traditionally good at bonding communities.
So what happens to a society when religion enters terminal decline? Well, there’s less need for so many churches. The Church of England has had to close down hundreds of them. Getting on for two thousand since the end of the war. Some are demolished. Some are turned into residential apartments. I know of one which is a nightclub. Predictably, the supermarkets got in on the act too. The teachings of Jesus and capitalism are not compatible, in my opinion. It’s one or the other. And the latter is clearly winning. The money changers are in the temple.
Our Father who art in Tescos,
hallowed be thy wholegrain.
Thy dairy come.
Thy bakery be done
on checkout as it is in aisle seven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our double dipping,
as we forgive those who double dip against us,
and lead us not into Sainsburys,
but deliver us from Asda.
For thine is the warehousing,
and the logistics, and the retail,
for ever and ever.