Christianity is for life, not just for Christmas

Staff Correspondent | Published: 20:25 pm, 06 Jan 2017, Fri

Christianity is for life, not just for Christmas

I was delighted to read Prebendary Neil Richardson’s letter (24 December) about the exclusion of programmes that were genuinely about Christmas from your “festive 40” listing. I had been thinking along very similar lines myself. Perhaps I could go a little further. Here at All Saints church in Kingston-upon-Thames, a busy, seven-days-a-week town-centre church, we have just enjoyed huge congregations at our four main Christmas services. The same will have been true of thousands of other churches of all Christian denominations throughout the country. Of course, we know very well that most of the people who have come to church during the last couple of weeks, people of all ages and of various ethnicities, will not be with us Sunday by Sunday – although many will be. But the fact is that they were there willingly and apparently gladly too, not under compulsion. It is clear to me that we are meeting a need – arguably an instinct that is deeply embedded in the national DNA – to go church at special times. Christian Britain is emphatically not dead. It may be different from the way it was in previous eras, but there is life and vitality in abundance in our churches, which by their very existence are making an invaluable contribution to the country’s precious reservoir of social and cultural capital. It would be good to see more of this acknowledged in the pages of the Guardian, rather than the weary but all too familiar journalistic tropes of “emptying pews”. There’s really so much more going on than that. John Dewhurst Churchwarden, All Saints Church, Kingston-upon-Thames • Re your report (Pope says Christmas has been ‘taken hostage by materialism’, 26 December), who exactly is the hostage-taker? Pope Francis conveniently forgets that it was Christians who took pagans’ midwinter festival hostage. After centuries under Christmas’s yoke, people are free once more to celebrate the lengthening days and the promise of spring in, yes, a material way. In return, Christmas has not been taken hostage: the church is still free to celebrate Jesus’s birth, but it does nobody any favours in our increasingly divided world to set that spiritual celebration against the materialist instinct to bring light and laughter, food and drink, into the darkest days of our northern winter. Rev Geoff Anderson Sheffield