Thursday, 8 June 2006

Wayside Shrines

I don't normally consult Anglican papers, but the Rev'd Lynda Barley made an interesting point recently about how modern faith tends to be expressed in images rather than words. She uses, as an example, the 'shrines' to victims of road accidents, often with a picture, an insciption, soft toy and/or a bunch of flowers (still in their cellophane wrapping). On a grand scale, of course, this 'popular religiosity' was evident after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales or 9/11.

Of course, Christianity has always been 'incarnational' - using tangible, visible things to express faith in the invisible. Perhaps Barley's observation is, in part, a reaction to the wordiness and banality of so much modern liturgy. I think some of the dullest services I've encountered are those on Radio 4 early on Sunday morning, which I often listen to as I get ready for the day. OK, it is radio - but there are so many words. Images, symbols and the like (and silence!) are much more pastorally effective - and the Catholic Church has long recognised this.

Here's part of the report, courtesy of The Church of England Newspaper and Matt Creswell:

IMAGES ARE the new words for people today, according to new research published by the Church of England. Roadside shrines, bouquets and teddies, combined with widening appeal for prayer stations, labyrinths and beads are all indicators of this trend it was claimed this week.

The research, carried by the Rev Lynda Barley, Head of Research and Statistics for the Archbishops’ Council, was published this week in her book Christian Roots, Contemporary Spirituality. People have “almost journeyed full circle”, she argues, from the days when the gospel was communicated by
stained-glass windows to the non-literate congregation. Her book acknowledges that while public recognition of faith in Britain has declined over the last 50 years, there is still a latent spirituality detectable, especially at times of crisis: “Faith is bubbling under the surface of modern day Britain,” says Dr Barley.


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