Weekly church attendance is declining in Britain, fewer children are baptised, fewer people are married, congregations are reduced to an aged rump. Some will look on this with glee, as Britons become increasingly godless and the ancient church buildings become curiosities or are demolished to make way for ugly redevelopments. As this becomes the reality, however, we may come to regret what we allowed to slip through our fingers.

Christians can be easily passed off as naïve do-gooders or regressive bigots, churches as places that uniquely harbour paedophiles, and God as something that others do. But, the #Church Of England (the other denominations are for their followers to reflect on) has been so much more than that, it was one of the first places babies were taken to be baptised, and the last place most people were taken to be buried.

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For hundreds of years, people flocked to them weekly without fail to praise their Lord and Saviour and to ask His forgiveness for the wrong that all of them had done. Now, churches are the places some people go at Christmas and Easter and cathedrals, once seats of power, are packed with tourists with cameras in hand.

We don't do God

Some will argue that they do not need God or a priest to tell them what is right and wrong and they do not need to live in fear of judgement to have a conscience. Maybe they are right. I despair at the way others behave when it has detrimental effects, but I am in no position to tell anyone else how to live, nor do I wish to. What I lament is the loss of something so unique and beautiful, handed to us by our forefathers, in a language crafted by those who (as radical as it looks to the modern eye) may have known better.

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I have not been fortunate enough to enjoy the full wonder of the Book of Common Prayer, although it is something that most of us should read, except for once or twice at Evensong in Christ Church Cathedral. In its pages are some of the greatest poetic works in the English language, quite unlike the modern equivalents, which are so painfully dry and sensible. With it went the equally glorious #King James Bible and the sorts of hymns that still manage to make the heart soar. Churches were all furnished with the majestic ornamentation that somehow reflects both the desire for modesty and reverence of an awe-inspiring God.

The settlement laid out by #Elizabeth I, that gave the Church of England such understated grandeur and might, is more or less gone, whilst the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer have been discarded to the back of the cupboard. We are left with sterile liturgies drawn up by passionless bureaucrats on a commission somewhere, vicars who long ago discarded their vestments in favour of jeans and open-necked shirts, while many churches are now decked out with speakers and drum kits, the pews long ago ripped out and projector screens installed.

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All of these changes have done nothing to arrest the decline of church attendance, atheism has been on the rise since the Established Church endorsed the bloody slaughter of the First World War, as was so well shown in Oh! What A Lovely War. I am unsure how, or even if, this can be stopped but it certainly does not attract anyone by watering down great beauty or by obsessing over questions of sexuality. There seems to be no desire to engage the masses with the Gospel, bishops are blasted for trying to balance the aims of liberal Anglicans and their traditionalist counterparts, and the pointless General Synod provides ample opportunities for the Church to be portrayed as schismatic. The fruits of this are the empty churches increasingly familiar to those of us who still regularly attend. If the Church is to die, let it go with dignity and respect, not the embarrassing attempts by middle-aged men to convert the young.

Turn off the lights on your way out

"There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles," so said Elizabeth I when discussing the divide between Roman Catholics and Protestants. This period saw the most bloody persecutions by both sides, with some, Good Queen Bess included, coming out marginally better than others in this area. And yet, from this bloodshed was born the settlement of the Church of England that was to hold until the last century. The national Church is still ostensibly both Catholic and Reformed, quite distinct to the Roman Church or the many Protestant denominations, in that it was so determinedly English in nature. "The bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England", perhaps the greatest statement of national independence in history resonates down the ages, it can be seen in the cathedrals so unlike anywhere else in the world and their lovely, in a different way, but distinctly Italianate Roman Catholic counterparts.

Man is fallen, as any good Christian will tell you, and it seems that he is destined to ruin that which is good. We have done it to so much in this country, be it the Church, the constitution, the grammar schools or the buildings, because we are so arrogant as to assume that we know better than those who went before. It is up to the reader to decide whether he or she will come to believe in God and try to help revive the Church of England, although I suspect that I know what the answer will be. Without a religion to guide us, worship of the 'self' has come to replace God. No longer does man mould golden calves to worship, now he has his self-gratification to devote his time, and our society is increasingly more selfish as a result. It will only get worse as the elderly who make up such a large part of our congregations pass on.

The Church is passing away, its cathedrals are becoming museums and its churches redeveloped as modern (ugly) houses, its leadership is besieged by intolerant revolutionaries and angry, lethargic traditionalists, we should not let the tambourine-playing, arm-waving and happy-clappy songs be its epitaph.