Before my recent move to England, I was told repeatedly that I would be surprised at how secular Europe has become. To that end, I’m inaugurating a new series of posts on this blog—inspired by a book from a few years back—called “The Death of Christian Britain.”
My introduction to the secularization of Europe actually happened on the ship that we took over here. My wife and I wanted to celebrate a Eucharist on a Sunday morning. We approached the purser’s desk and explained what we wanted to do: “We’d like to have an Anglican or Episcopal Eucharist service on Sunday.” The man behind the desk—who was German—looked at us uncomprehendingly. It was clear the words “Anglican,” “Episcopal,” and “Eucharist” totally flummoxed him.
“You know,” we said, “we want to have a mass.”
He did understand that word. “There’s a Catholic mass every day on board,” he said.
“But we’re not Catholic,” we said. “We want a Protestant Eucharist.”
“Oh,” he said, now getting it. “The captain will hold some sort of”—he paused, looking for the right word before hitting on it—”multicultural service on Sunday.”
“You mean, ‘ecumenical’,” we said.
“Yes, that,” he said, now completely uninterested. He referred us to the entertainment director who helped us set up the service.
Today, we went to set up a bank account. The woman who was helping us needed our professional details and I said I was a student.
“What do you study?” she asked, as she needed the information for her records.
“Theology,” I said.
“Oh,” she said, “what’s theology?” She added hastily, “I don’t need it for my records, I just want to know what it is.”
I had not expected this and fumbled for an answer. “Well,” I said. “I guess the classic answer is ‘faith seeking understanding.'”
“Oh,” she said. “Sounds interesting” and went back to filling in the details.
In 30 seconds or less, how would you have answered her question?
Before too long I hope to have another series on this blog: the Renewal of Christian Britain. For now, however, secularization is much easier to spot!