Erm, Happy Chocolate Day?

Is Easter all about chocolate eggs, or is there more to it than that?

As a Christian, occasionally church-going, occasionally Bible-reading, fairly often praying, but always believing, I should have been at Church today, and on Friday.  Have I been?  Have I heck!  My excuse reason is Steve's working and I really can't face the prospect of taking a small baby and a toddler to Church on my own.  Don't get me wrong, our congregation are a fairly welcoming lot, and would probably help me with the children if asked, plus the Church is literally across the road from us, but the challenge is way too daunting to contemplate.

Of course, if I were absolutely determined to go, I would, wouldn't I?  But instead the sum of my Easter worship is chocolate for me (cue gratuitous shot of my beautiful Hotel Chocolat egg), and an egg hunt and some presents for Lara.  I did explain to her the other day why the "cross cross beans" have the "cross cross" on the top, and gabbled a bit about God and Jesus, but she's two, it's limited!

Gratuitous egg shot as promised

So what about Church?  What does everyone else do?  According to the 2010-11 Church of England statistics, 65% of the UK population regard themselves as Christian, yet only 20% of people attend a weekly sevice.  This rockets to 35% at Christmas, but that's still only just over half of those who say they are Christian.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find official statistics for Easter worship, but I would suggest, based purely on my own observations, that there is probably a spike in attendance to about 25% of the population on Easter Sunday, arguably a less important day in the Christian calendar than Good Friday.

Many people will be keen to remind me of the Pagan origins of Easter, emphasising the fact that the Christian festival was tacked on to a tradition which already existed.  And of course, the renewal of life represented by eggs, chicks, lambs and ickle baby bunnies is a large part of that, but we do still consume vast quantities of crucifix-marked buns; we watch the Passion or big Christian-themed Hollywood epics on television; non-Christians practice the using up of 'luxurious' ingredients on Shrove Tuesday, and then give treats up for Lent.

Why do we cling on to Christian practices if we have no faith?  For the majority are they, like Christmas, just traditions, habits we continue for the enjoyment they bring, or is there, even now, somewhere deep down, a need to cling on to belief even in its simplest form?

Which brings me to the question of why the majority of British people still claim to be Christian if they never attend worship.  Surprisingly, the same statistics quoted above claim:

"85% of people in Britain visit a church in any one year for many reasons apart from services of worship.  Weddings, funerals, school services, concerts and special events attract people to these centres of community life."

I really wouldn't have thought the numbers were as high as that, but obviously this shows that we do still need a location for that community or familial connection, even if we don't require it for worship.

Our wedding, in the church over the road

For us, it was vitally important to be married in Church, without that I certainly wouldn't have felt married, but I have attended some lovely civil services, both between mixed and same sex couples.  The church ceremony was our choice, as was our desire to have our daughters christened and welcomed into our religious community.  We know its not for everyone, and respect others practices as we expect them to respect ours, indeed we were both appalled that some of Steve's family found amusement in the church services they have attended for us.

But do the statistics mean that the majority of people who attend weddings, baptisms, funerals, concerts in church have no belief, or just that choose not to practice?  My eldest daughter has five godparents, none are regular churchgoers, most are agnostic.  Sophia will be christened later this year with three godparents, only one of whom worships regularly.  One of our friends even felt it necessary to turn the role down as, having no belief herself, she didn't feel equipped to take on the responsibility.

Lara's christening with our wonderful Father Andrew

So are we a Christian people without a religion?  Or do we just choose not to make it public?  We seek community, but are we now too individualistic to join together in praise?  Do we know who, or what, to praise anyway?  Are we too science-obsessed to believe that there is anyone/anything there?  I don't have the answers, do you?

To clarify, I'm really not trying to make any point, or to offend anyone, I'm just mulling over some thoughts I had today as the only Easter tweets/wall posts/blog entries I saw referred to chocolate - mine too I hasten to add!!

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