A FEW weeks ago, a young man from Angola joined us for our Sunday morning Eucharist. After the service, over coffee, we chatted about a range of topics, including church attendance.
Becoming rather sad, he told me that, in contrast to many parts of Africa, attendance in Angola seemed to be on the decline. During the civil war in Angola, which lasted for 25 years, the churches – despite serious differences in their attempts to promote peace – were seen as champions of justice for the suffering population, and the churches were full. “Now”, he said sadly, “we have had 10 years of relative peace, and although there is much still to be done, people are saying ‘now we have peace, we don’t need God any longer’.”
That young man’s words took me back to the 1950s, when I was a young chorister. Many men were entering the ministry because of their wartime experiences, and the churches were still pretty full of people, thankful for peace. Eventually, along came the ‘60s, with their emphasis on individual freedoms, and church attendance in the UK (and elsewhere) began to decline.
Different era, different country, same syndrome. Everything that is achieved is achieved by “me” – God is irrelevant. Yet, when people are in trouble, they frequently turn to God for help. Even we Christians don’t always sufficiently acknowledge our Maker’s hand at work in our world. Yet, we have so much to be thankful for – our food; our families and friends; our freedom; our talents; the natural beauty of the world which gives us so much pleasure.
But we are slow to give thanks for his already generous bounty. Perhaps it’s time for us to heed more closely the words of St Paul, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus: “..in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.
Harold Jack St Mary’s & St Peter’s Church