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Last updated 4th September 2017

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                                     September 2017

Dear friends,
“Can you tell us what this big church is for? What should we look at?” asked a group of Chinese tourists in York Minster
I took a deep breath, “let me start from the very beginning.
This is often how I begin a guided Minster tour for the Chinese tourists.  Most of them have no idea of church or Christianity.  So when I tell them about the Minster, I have to explain every concept and all the terminology.  Often each answer provokes only more questions.  

 “This is a cathedral.” I might say.
 “What is a cathedral? What is it for?”
“A cathedral is a church where there is a bishop’s chair
.” I reply.
“A church? What is a church? What is a bishop’s chair?” …  

Inevitably, the guided tour of the Minster turns into a tour of introduction to Christianity.   This is why I  make a round trip of almost 100 miles every week to do the guided tour of York Minster.  For most of these Chinese tourists, this would be the first time they encounter Christianity in a church; it is certainly  the first time they talk to a Christian face to face.  

However, I have found more and more English people, particularly the younger generation, whose knowledge of Christianity is no better than that of the Chinese tourists I have met.  I once visited a young couple who had booked a baptism for their young son.  They were surprised to hear that baptism was an initiation rite which would make their son a Christian.  Even more surprisingly, after a recent baptism service, a young lady asked Margaret, “Does that lady (pointing at me) do this every Sunday?”  Margaret had to explain to her that “that lady” was the vicar and worked full time in the church.  

The ignorance of the Chinese about Christianity  is quite excusable; not only are the traditional Chinese religions  Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, with Christianity still considered a foreign religion, but also the Communist government has never stopped persecuting and controlling Christian churches in China, so most of the Chinese do not know Christianity at all.  

But what makes Christianity and the established Church of England so remote from the English people of the twenty-first century?  England is a country with almost 1500 years of Christian history; the Church of England parish system provides a place of worship for every citizen as a focal point for spirituality and pastoral care.  

It is easy for me to stand in York Minster waiting for coach-loads of Chinese tourists to drop in. There are no people dropping into our parish church to inquire what we are here for. We have to find some ways to present the Good News of Jesus Christ to the generation of the twenty-first century.