World Christianity, Part 1
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To introduce the idea that Christianity is a multifaceted faith, practised all over the world in many different forms.
Preparation and materials
- You will need three or so students to enact ordering a meal from a takeaway menu.
- Put together a collection of brochures from restaurants serving all sorts of cuisines – Indian, Chinese, Thai, British, French, Italian . . .
- If possible, set up three or four easy chairs and side tables with a telephone (it doesn’t have to work).
- Set the scene: a student sitting on a chair picks up the telephone, pretends to dial a number and orders a Chinese meal from one of the menus, another orders an Indian meal, another a pizza and so on.
- Ask the other students to think about the number of different restaurants there are in the vicinity – on the local high street, in the nearby town and so on. How many different kinds of food have they eaten so far? Who cooked them? Usually people from the country of origin or not?
- Can you remember the first time you ate an exotic meal? Maybe it seemed very strange, perhaps you didn't like it. Perhaps you weren't sure. These days there are so many different styles of cooking – all available as takeaways or in the local supermarket or we enjoy making them at home – that we don't always remember they originate in very different cultures around the world.
- Imagine a high street with a church or chapel on it. Fifty years ago or even more recently than that, everyone would have recognized the traditional Sunday activity of going to church and then eating Sunday dinner – roast meat and two veg, perhaps, followed by a pudding and maybe a cup of tea. Hardly anyone then would have dreamed that curries and stir-fries or pizzas would be everyday fare.
Also, Christian churches, of whatever denomination, would have been pretty much the only places of worship, with perhaps a few synagogues in London and other parts of the country.
- That same high street today is a very different place. People from other countries have come to live here and a whole variety of different foods have come to be available generally in the shops.
We can benefit from all this variety and fresh insights that other cultures bring to all areas of our lives. There are mosques, temples and other places of worship as well as synagogues and churches. Different ways of doing things have been introduced. This is all 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 bring their customs and recipes with them, but subtle adjustments to them will also take place. So, Chinese dishes cooked in a takeaway or restaurant in a small town in the UK, for example, are unlikely to be the same as the dishes cooked in parts of China. They will have been changed to suit the tastes of the customers in the UK.
- The same happens the other way round, too. Christianity started in an eastern Mediterranean culture – hence, lots of loaves, fishes, olive oil and wine – and gradually spread around the world. Today the whole Bible has been translated into 531 languages, with parts of it having been translated into 2,883 of the world's estimated 6,912 or so languages. It is on the World Wide Web, reflected in hundreds – maybe thousands – of sites.
- 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 a church on the way to a takeaway or a restaurant, value our multicultural world and remember that the UK is only one of hundreds of countries where Christians believe because people have travelled far to bring God’s word to us.
Time for reflection
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.
- Find out what countries are represented in the population of your school (or 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.
- You could find out about the Bible Society and its translation work by visiting its website at: www.biblesociety.org.uk
- You could find out more about Christian responses to ethical issues. See the Christianity in Today's World Series, for secondary schools, Key Stage 4 video pack, including a teacher guide and book (BBC Education and the Culham Institute, 1992), for example, which focuses on such responses in five different countries.
‘Our Father who art in heaven’ (Come and Praise, 51)