Christians have a faith tradition stretching back over 2000 years. Christianity is a worldwide religion with over one billion adherents. In England there are over forty dioceses and over 12,000 parish churches. In all cities in the UK, in all towns and villages, the presence of Christianity is visible in its churches and its celebrations. Although the UK is experiencing the secularization of its religious and Christian institutions, and a reduction in those attending church, over 70% of the population of the UK still profess to be Christian in some way.
Within Christianity there is a huge diversity of belief and practice. There are many denominations worldwide and in the UK ranging from the established Anglican communion of the Church of England, through Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox, to Baptist and Methodist non-conformists. Often the most heated arguments are those created by members of the same family and the same can be said for Christian denominational arguments. The UK is also home to Christian deviationist groups and sects, of which the Church of Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) and Jehovah’s Witnesses are arguably the largest.
In cities, towns and even villages, one can find churches, chapels and halls belonging to various denominations. The ecumenical movement is apparent in areas of the UK with some denominations working together to share resources. However, is more common to find towns with a plethora of different places of Christian worship, meeting at different times, each pursuing different outreach and mission programmes.
Traditionally, the relationship of Christianity with other faith groups has been ambivalent. It is in the nature of most of the main faith traditions to make certain truth claims, which has in some cases, created tension rather than tolerance. However, the Inter-faith network and sympathetic Christian denominations, have worked hard to established new relationships.
Church of England Schools working in cities with large Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities create ideal opportunities for cross-cultural and cross-religious dialogue. Teachers of Religious Education in all areas of the country, with many supportive and sympathetic Christian teachers, follow multi-faith syllabi and address the needs of a pluralistic UK.
The UK is a rich mix of religions and cultures and although there are still pockets of the country which are mono-culturally Christian, post-modern spirituality has ensured that even these pockets are now infused with people seeking truth through Buddhism or other alternative routes. The relationship of culture and religion, and of culture and what it means to be a citizen of the UK, is harder to define because of this mix. However, the Christian task is to ensure that the work being done to create a harmonious and dynamic society continues.