A New Generation's Search for Faith
At the tender age of twelve I remember watching Top of the Pops and thinking to myself how dull and boring we had all become. Bony M were prancing around in very big hair, ABBA were at the height of popularity and Slade were trying to look old. I looked at myself in a full length mirror and thought If brown flared trousers, cheesecloth shirts and spoon shoes was what being trendy was all about, I don't want anything more to do with it! At least my parents generation had something rebellious and songs that said something.
My parents grew up in the 50s and I was born in the mid 60s. I used to listen to my dads Elvis and Rolling Stones records and try comparing them to Shawaddywaddy, there was no comparison. That generation had style. The Teds dressed like Edwardian gentlemen, the Mods wore sharp suits and the Rockers looked dead cool in their studded leather, posing around on their Harley Davidsons and Triumph Bonivilles.
So what on earth happened? I shuddered at the very thought of having to listen to The Bay City Rollers and Jimmy Osmond for the rest of the decade, so I went and locked myself in my room, flicked on the radio and. started to play around with the dial.
On my journey around the airwaves I came across the John Peel Show. Here was a man who was playing some great new music. It was radical, powerful and fast and the kids were actually singing about things that mattered. From that moment I was converted to a new way of life. Out went the flares, cheesecloth shirts and spoons, and in came the earrings and safety pins. Of course, we soon all succumbed to the fashion industry as they jumped on the punk bandwagon and began to dictate what we should wear. But those early days in the mid seventies were worth it. Throughout those days I guess many of us were just out for a good time, but I can honestly say that we wanted to change the world and make it a more virile place and kick against the constraints of conformity and trendiness.
In recent years I have met those very same people now all pushing 30 years old. I usually meet them at the many summer rock festivals or in pubs and more increasingly in church. They are mothers, fathers, lawyers, travellers, unwaged, builders, nurses, students, artists, teachers; in fact they are all humanity.
More increasingly I find that they are on a spiritual quest for one thing or another, some follow the many aspects of the New Age phenomenon, others are Buddhists, whilst a couple have gone along the road of Islam.
Very few though have become Christians (although some have). More often than not I find myself in deep conversation about the meaning of life and the universe, but when I question them as to why they do not go to church, they answer that the church has tried to become too trendy and doesn't seem to have any spiritual depth or compassion.
When I tell them about the dessert Fathers, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing and the deep spiritual works of Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis and Theresa of Avila, they ask me where this is taught. Trendiness is OK for a while and may bring in the hordes for a short time, but unless our faith is grounded in the bible, Sacraments, mystery and the great spiritual writers, and meditation and payer, how do we expect to encapsulate those searching souls. Why should they want to worship in churches with lightweight liturgy and patronising sermons when they can be meditating at home or at a festival. The same can be said of dull and boring church services, like my brown flares and cheesecloth shirt, they should be cast off for something with more depth and more exhilaration.
This doesn't mean a watering down of the Mass, but a more adventurous use of music and more thought provoking sermons. We need to make it our business to go out and meet those people and especially the youngsters of this era, for 90% of our teaching and learning goes on outside of the Sunday church context. Young people will, and need to rebel because of the constraints of the secular west and they must kick against this pressure for them to conform.
If we, the Church, are constantly trying to go the way of the world, following every fashionable thing of the day, then how are youngsters going to feel the liberation that comes from being a member of the Body of Christ, that otherness that brings us closer to the heart of God. We need a spiritual awakening of depth, energy and compassion, rather than a tambourine and triangle and a slap on the back. .
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