"Faith isn't dead... far from it" says the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. In writing for The Herald newspaper (25/9/13) Bishop David says:

Searching for the Spiritual

June 1, 2013

"Faith isn’t dead… far from it!" says the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. In writing for The Herald newspaper (25/9/13) Bishop David says: “Pilgrimage – it’s a word with resonance. Not travel nor an expedition nor a trek. Pilgrimage means journeying on a time-hallowed route towards a destination which has religious or cultural significance. Journey – and it’s usually walking – is as important as destination. The journey is shared – a meeting ‘along the way’ with people who talk as they walk and share their lives as well their journey. “Pilgrimage is very much ‘on the agenda’ in Scotland today. The Scottish Government, local councils, churches and tourist agencies all realise the potential of pilgrimage to bring people here to walk towards places which have spiritual magnetism – places like Iona and St Andrews. Scotland is rich in potential for this kind of tourism. People don’t want just to visit. They want to connect at a deep level with the places they visit. “What has also changed is the extent to which many people in today’s society are interested in spirituality. ‘Interested’ doesn’t do justice to it – they want to experience the spiritual and they want to explore the deepest questions of life. “There are other examples of this. I recently received an e mail from a friend who will have nothing to do with religion – but wanted me to know that she had spent 24 hours in the monastery where I regularly go on retreat. When I go there, it’s people like her that I meet. Not just religious people but people who would say that they are ‘finding themselves’ in the community, the worship and the silence. “And then there is the candle phenomenon. Once again, it seems that people who wouldn’t claim to be religious slip in and out of churches and light candles – thinking of a friend or family member or missing somebody who has died. “In some of our churches, we are exploring new ways of connecting with people – people who aren’t looking for something to join but who are open to exploring the spiritual side of life. Hymns don’t ‘do it’ for them. But ‘Art and Soul’ where the visual arts meet the spiritual journey may just tick the boxes. Listening to a sermon may not appeal but some deep silence and the edges of contemplative prayer do draw them. “There is no single reason why this revival of interest in things spiritual is happening now. Some of it must arise as from the economic collapse through which we have been living. Acquisitive values have been found wanting – people look for something deeper. Analysis of our society as ‘post-modern’ suggests that, while people are sceptical about institutions and authority, they are willing to engage in a search for meaning and depth in their lives. “The irony is that this is happening at a time of real difficulty for organised and institutional religion. Some of the decline in churches is due to our secular society and some of it is self-inflicted. But I can see the reality of it as I drive around Scotland on Sunday mornings. Church doors are open and welcomers stand ready in the porch – but the faithful walking up the steps are few and elderly. “I think that there is a fascinating challenge here for churches. Conventional thinking says that churches need to be really welcoming and to offer soft and social ‘openers’ to people. But what is happening turns that thinking on its head. People are wary of joining, cautious about churches, reluctant to commit. What they want is spiritual experience – something which catches the breath, brings a tear to the corner of the eye and makes the world feel different in some deep way. That is a profound challenge to church communities which are wary of spiritual experience – afraid that it may lack spiritual substance – and who embrace ‘as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be’. “Faith isn’t dead. Far from it. It’s just that some of our churches haven’t woken up to that.” -ends-