Parish of St Matthew the Apostle,
Douglas, Isle of Man

Young People's Corner

Hello! “The spring is sprung……etc. After that cold, wet, windy winter we can hope for a hot, sunny, soporific summer (of course, that is, after our exams with their maximum workload are successfully completed!)

Recently, I suggested, after considering personal freedom, that we look at the problem of religious freedom. Firstly, what is religion? It is a set of beliefs that one has that can influence the way one’s life is run spiritually, morally, ethically as well as in a physical dimension. So religious freedom is establishing boundaries stating what we are permitted to do or not do by the law of the land.

People have fought and died to make our country a place where we can boast of religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It is a place where we are free to worship. So where are these boundaries in the religious field?

The boundaries are enshrined in British Law from the time of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and many other Acts of Parliament in later centuries.

In this country we have the right to (i) choose the brand of religion we want, eg Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc (ii) Talk about it and read its scriptures publicly (iii) Try to persuade others to join (iv) Have a place of worship (v) Change it for another brand of religion (vi) Freedom from having to affirm a particular world-view in order to hold a public service job; stand for Parliament; work in a profession (like teaching or law); or study at a university. Some of these rights are being eroded so we need to know what, how and why this is happening. If we wish to keep our freedoms, we must vigilant.

Every single person in the world is different. We have unique fingerprints and different ways of worship but we all worship something – God, idols, sport, cars, houses, pop stars, clothes, but probably most popular are money and ourselves!

Here we are restricting ourselves to religious Worship. The other five religious rights we may think about some other time.

We tend to gather together and join with people who have similar ways of expressing their worship. There are those who life their arms in the air and perhaps shout “Hallelujah, Amen” at intervals; or those who cross themselves and kiss things; or those who take a small mat and kneel on it and bend in prayer five times a day. I don’t do any of those things but that doesn’t mean I have not a close spiritual contact with God in my worship nor that I have any desire to change the way they worship. In other words, we each have freedom of worship and nobody should try to make us worship in a way that they dictate. We decide how we worship.

How does that affect you? You have freedom of worship but if you don’t use it you will lose it. So, make sure you are comfortable with the worship available and then use it. If not, do something about it but be assured that you will know that your worship is effective when you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Remember the story of the man who kept swinging his umbrella because he had the right to do so but forgot that his freedom ended where the next man’s nose began!

Ruth Solomon