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Date posted: 13 October 2017
I have been a Christian for over 40 years but have never found it easy to talk to those outside the church about my faith or about what I believe – and I suspect I am not alone in that. However, the other day I ended up having an unexpected and quite astonishing conversation with a relative stranger.
I was at the hairdresser’s and the young man who has only been there for a few months was washing my hair. Stereotypically chatty for a salon employee, he asked if I had a busy weekend coming up and I mentioned that I would be in London on Saturday for a conference. ‘Oh, what’s that about?’ he asked, so I took a deep breath and told him it was about encouraging the churches to be more involved in creation care.
What followed almost took my breath away. This lad was clearly not a churchgoer but the one thing he knew about Christians was ‘Love your neighbour’ and he was absolutely adamant that if a church was not fully on board with looking after the environment then it was failing and was hypocritical. I slightly hesitantly tried to suggest that Christians in such congregations were not necessarily ‘lying’ (his assessment) but that they had failed to make the necessary connections between the teachings of the Christian faith and the threats posed by climate change.
He may just have followed this up in order to make conversation, but it did seem that his interest was aroused by the subject and he went on to quiz me about which church I attended, how I had become a Christian and which of the local churches he should attend if he wanted to give one a try. It was a God-given opportunity, and I was able to respond out of my own experience and without any hesitation – not something that I had expected to be doing as part of a cut and blow dry!
This encounter lasted only a matter of minutes, but was very striking none the less and I was left with the overwhelming impression that if he were in any way typical of the younger generation then many of them are really concerned about the environment – about their future and the problems they will inherit from us – and if they do not see this concern reflected by the church then the church will not attract them.
The obvious flip side to that is that if they can see churches engaging with these issues, taking relevant action and speaking out on behalf of the poor and vulnerable – and future generations – who are going to be so badly affected if we cannot begin to stem the tide of climate change, then the church gains credibility and is seen to be demonstrating the love it talks about. Then, we may make new disciples.
Nicky Bull is Chair of Operation Noah.