Mat’s January Letter

I hope you had a great Christmas—Happy New Year!

What are you are expecting from 2013? At the beginning of January many people make predictions about what to expect from the coming year. Some are based on pure guess work and some on previous years’ experience. One of the trends I believe will continue is the decline in folk religion. The census information published at the beginning of December told us that 6 million fewer adults called themselves Christian compared to the 2001 Census. I think Bristol was the 4th least Christian city and one of the highest for adults saying they were of ‘no religion’. This doesn’t come as a great surprise. Fewer than 10% of the population regularly attend church and the number of baptisms, weddings and funerals we carry out declines year on year. What are we to do with this?

I believe the decline in people identifying themselves as Christian is a benefit to our mission but also produces a challenge to us. Church attendance has been reducing since the industrial revolution but the majority of people have continued to call themselves Christian, they were CofE! For many their commitment to this was, at most, attendance at Christmas and perhaps Easter. That folk identity had much more to do with social history and ethnic identity than it did with following Jesus. As more and more people define themselves as not Christian those of us who are will become more distinctive. Our following of Jesus will increasingly mark us out as different to the world, increasing our witness, improving our mission and also making life potentially more difficult.

Jesus calls us to follow him, to learn to obey all that he has taught us, to become whole life disciples; this means, “there is no area of our life that Jesus does not have ownership of, and there is no part of our life that he does not want to use for his glory.” Neil Hudson Imagine Church IVP 2012.

My hope and prayer for us at St Matthew’s is that 2013 will be a year where we seek to do this more and more through the working of the Holy Spirit in our whole lives, not just when we meet together on a Sunday.

I look forward to all that God will do in us and through us in the coming year.


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