Why, as Time did last week, profile an evangelical course in Christian basics that began almost 20 years ago in a London Anglican church?
Aren’t Holy Trinity Brompton and the Alpha course (now a staple in many Protestant churches) old news?
Well maybe–and maybe not. Time has a very audacious hook for this tale. Eben Harrell asserts that HTB (as it’s called in Anglican shorthand) is another sign of burgeoning spiritual life in an area long considered a faith wasteland — this time, among the city’s affluent classes.
The writer’s lede sums up his argument by citing the case of James Mumford:
James Mumford is a well-dressed 27-year-old from the posh London neighborhood of Pimlico. He holds degrees in philosophy from Oxford and Yale and, like many of Britain’s elite, spent a post-graduate stint working in London’s finance industry. But tonight he wants to talk about how he came to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into his heart. “I don’t mind talking about my faith,” he says, sheepishly. “But it’s a touch embarrassing. Just don’t brand me as a mindless evangelical.”
That peculiarly British reticence may be one reason that an unexpected spiritual awakening among London’s high society has gone unnoticed in recent years. Long considered an aggressively secular city, London has quietly become one of Britain’s most Christian areas, going from the least observant region in Britain in 1979 to the second most observant today. Much of that resurgence in piety is the result of the city’s expanding and devout immigrant population. But there is also a growing number of young, highly educated and moneyed Londoners — people such as Mumford — who are turning to the church.
Although I don’t know whether spiritual awakenings are ever expected, this one has not gone unnoticed in church circles–the U.S. and U.K. media have certainly covered Alpha and its viral growth extensively.
Soul-searching among the wealthy and the literary are not new in England, or we would never have had, way back in the 20th century, Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited or most of the novels of Graham Greene. And Britain has long been a center for alternative Christian worship and the so-called “emergent” movement.
What’s truly intriguing here is Harrell’s argument that the “supposedly godless” city of London is undergoing a spiritual revival, and has “quietly become one of Britain’s most Christian areas.”
He also says that much of the reawakening is due to new immigrants.
But he doesn’t either give us links or references so that we can investigate his argument.
Is it possible that England, conventionally considered another devoutly secular European country, is experiencing a significant resurgence of Christian faith?
And spurred in part by a Church of England Church (albeit an evangelical one)? That really is news!
Hard to tell from reading this article. But I really hope that Time and other media fortunate enough to still actually have reporters in London will get beyond HTB, and give us that story, too.
Pensive Kensington Garden squirrel perhaps pondering spiritual reawakening in his neighborhood from Wikimedia Commons