Tunstall & Rodmersham

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Our lovely churches are situated close to Sittingbourne in Kent, England and in our way we continue the tradition of village churches in this part of the country. You are always welcome. To the North and South, busy highways send traffic to Canterbury or the Continent and to London and beyond.

From the Rector's study - May 2004

Atheism has been much in the news in recent weeks, not least the proposal that it should be taught about in schools alongside other religious faiths. I have always had the greatest respect for those who adopt atheism, and given the proliferation of beliefs which go under the name of 'religion' I can well understand that for some people honesty and integrity demands the rejection of all forms of religion, and the multitude of conflicting and differing ideas about God.

Often atheism is portrayed as the opposite of faith. I think what is meant by this is that atheists work on the principle that they will only believe what can be proved or is certain. That too I can understand - religious faith can lead to unreasonable speculation about what is true or not true. My problem however is that atheism itself demands a degree of faith - faith that all the evidence is available and that the human mind has all the resources and expertise it needs to come to an objective and rational conclusion about the nature of reality. In many Christians I find a healthy degree of agnosticism, and by that I mean an openness of mind which admits of other possibilities. Furthermore, Christianity has been one of the major influences in scientific discovery over the centuries as well as the inspiration for some of the greatest works of art and literature.

Perhaps we need to look at the world in new ways - no longer a world where some people are right and therefore others are wrong. There is so much more than we shall ever see or understand, and the more we extend our knowledge the less we know. However objective we try to be, the way the universe is seems to require us to walk by faith and not by sight. For some people that will mean adopting a religious faith; for others atheism or agnosticism may be the way in which they can best make sense of life. Our beliefs are the platform from which we look out onto the world and try and make sense of our experiences To a certain extent, beliefs are the result of our background, culture, family and environment; they are also modified by the knowledge we have gained and by our experience. We, and our world, are changing all the time, and so it is possible that our beliefs will change.

If I were trying to commend Christianity to someone who was looking for a religious faith I would say that Christianity offers a basis for living which takes all these changes into account. It is not a 'take it or leave it' faith but one which grows with us. From within the Christian faith one can explore ones atheism and agnosticism. It is possible to teach someone about Christianity but the Christian Faith is something that has to be lived! Someone can acquire the knowledge about flying an aeroplane, but he will not be a pilot unless he takes the controls and puts the knowledge into practice.

It might be asked how one can have faith and at the same time have doubts - surely to admit to doubts is to deny ones faith? As we celebrate Pentecost this month, I suggest that this holds the key to that question: faith comes to us as a gift; it is not something we arrive at as a result of our own efforts alone. Each of us has to make our own journey and that journey comprises all that we are, all that we experience and all that we learn. But we may come to a point where all that is not enough: it as then that if we choose to open ourselves up to God we can ask for the gift of the Spirit - Holy Spirit. This will not necessarily result in some sudden life changing new experience (though it might!). Our journey continues; there will be times when we are perplexed, challenged and uncertain - that will not change. But as we open our lives to the transforming power of God's Holy Spirit, we shall see have light for our journey, receive strength for our souls and find God in All Things.

David Matthiae

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