World Christianity - Part 1
3 and 4
World Christianity - Part 1
To introduce the idea that Christianity is a multi-faceted faith, practised all over the world in many different forms.
To set the groundwork for future collective worships on Christianity as a worldwide, multi-ethnic faith.
A collection of brochures from restaurants, e.g. Indian, Chinese, Thai, British, French, Italian.
If possible, set up three or four easy chairs and side tables with a telephone.
Set the scene: a student on a telephone dials and orders a Chinese meal from a menu; another orders an Indian; another a hamburger, and so on.
Ask the rest of the students to think about the number of different restaurants there are in the vicinity (a local high street, the nearby town, etc.). How many different kinds of food have they eaten so far? Who cooked them? Usually people of the country itself.
Can you remember the first time you ate an exotic meal? Maybe it seemed very strange, perhaps you didn't like it. Perhaps weren't sure. These days there are so many different styles of cooking, all available as takeaways or in the freezer cabinet of the local supermarket, that we don't always remember that they come from very different cultures.
Imagine, now, a high street with a church or chapel on it. Fifty years ago, or less, everyone would have recognized a traditional Sunday activity of going to church and eating Sunday dinner - roast meat and two veg, perhaps, followed by pudding and maybe a cup of tea. But hardly anyone would have dreamt that curry and chips or hamburgers would be everyday fare. And the Christian church of whatever denomination would have been what everyone thought of as the only place of worship around, apart from perhaps a synagogue or two.
That same high street today is a very different place. New people have come to live there, new products are in the shops, we can benefit from all the variety and fresh insights that they bring to all areas of our lives. There are mosques and temples as well as synagogues and churches. There are different ways of doing things - that is part of what is meant when people say the world is now a global village.
People who move to a new country usually have to adapt to new ways of doing things. They will bring their customs with them but subtle adjustments will take place. Chinese cooking in a small town in Britain, for example, might not be the same as Chinese cooking in parts of China. It will have been changed to suit the tastes of the clients.
It's the same the other way round. Christianity started in an eastern Mediterranean culture (lots of loaves, fishes, olive oil and wine) and gradually spread around the world. Today its scriptures have been translated into 2,000 of the world's estimated 6,500 languages. It is on the World Wide Web, reflected in hundreds - maybe thousands - of sites. There are Bible Societies in countries all over the world - in Slovenia, Rwanda, Peru, Russia, and Singapore to name but a few.
If Christianity is for everyone, it must speak to everyone in his or her own language, and be at home in every culture. So next time you walk past the church on the way to the takeaway, remember that Britain is only one of hundreds of countries where Christians believe that they are made in God's image.
Acts 6.1-7; This passage in Acts describes how the members of the Early Church decided that they must move beyond their own immediate concerns and spread the word further afield. It was these first missionary journeys that took Christianity from its origins as a Jewish sect to becoming a worldwide faith.
We live in our own little world.
We live in the world outside, too.
Help us to get the balance right.
May we learn to appreciate variety;
May we learn to respect difference;
May we learn to enjoy the personal love you have for everyone, in every land and culture throughout the world.
The Lord's Prayer, the central prayer of Christianity, has been set to the music of many different cultures. This version (with commentary!) is from the Golden Gate Quartet, a black American gospel group singing in 1938. (Play 'The Lord's Prayer' from The Golden Gate Quartet - Kings of Gospel, SOL 512. It will also be available on UK labels.)
- Find out what countries are represented in the population of your school (or of the surrounding area). Then find out about Christianity in those countries. How did it arrive there? What is distinctive about it? Are there any special Christians from that country? Is it a minority or a majority faith there?
- Listen to African Sanctus by David Fanshawe (an Englishman who lived in Africa) and try to find other examples of Christian Mass settings from different cultural environments.
- For more about the Bible Society and its translation work, see www.biblesociety.org.uk
- For more about Christian responses to ethical issues, focusing on five different countries, watch Christianity in Today's World (BBC Education/Culham - video available from BBC).