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Christianity has its roots 2,000 years ago in the land now called the Holy Land. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, at once human and divine; that His death by crucifixion redeemed the sins of the world; and that His resurrection to eternal life opened that life to all humankind.

There are 2,000 million Christians worldwide - one third of the global population, with many different churches and denominations. Christianity has been the main religion in Britain for over 1000 years. Today 42 million people in the UK and 386,000 in Greater Nottingham think of themselves as Christians, 71% of the total in each case.

Early History

Jesus was born to a Jewish woman called Mary, and spent His youth in Roman occupied Palestine. When He was about thirty, He began to travel about speaking of God and healing the sick and disturbed. His was followed by a group of disciples, and by large crowds of people who wanted to hear his teaching. He taught that God, whom He called 'Abba', Father, is merciful and full of love for humankind and all creation, and that we should love and care for one another, even our enemies, and trust God in everything. He fell foul of the Jewish religious authorities and Roman occupying power, and was condemned to death by crucifixion.

After the crucifixion His body disappeared, and His disciples said He had been raised up by God and that they had seen and spoken to Him. They proclaimed Jesus' resurrection and His teaching far and wide, and Paul of Tarsus took the story to Rome itself. About 313 the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced the Christian faith, and the church spread throughout the Empire. After the fall of Rome the church became the dominant power in Europe, and helped preserve the learning and culture of the ancients into the Middle Ages.

Religious Scriptures and Symbols

The Bible, the Christian holy book, is in two parts. The Jewish scriptures form the Old Testament; the New Testament includes four accounts of Jesus by different writers, called the gospels, and account of the early spread of the faith, plus letters written by Paul and other early Christian leaders.

A Christian place of worship and a community of believers are both called a church. The Christian symbol is the cross, either empty, or showing Jesus crucified[the crucifix]. It speaks of God's love for humankind and the promise of eternal life

What do Christians believe?

Christians believe that there is one God, the creator and sustainer of all things, and that God is known to us in a threefold way, as the Father, the Son who is incarnate in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The title Christ is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, the one who would be sent by God to redeem and renew the world. Jesus' early followers proclaimed that He fulfilled this role, and the prophecies in the Jewish scriptures.

Humans are sinners, that is, they fall short of God's intention for them, enslaved by selfcentredness. Jesus called people to turn to God, repent of their sins and receive forgiveness and salvation. God's love and mercy are available to all humankind because through Jesus' death and resurrection the forces of evil are defeated and sin is overcome. Each person has only one life, and after death they will be judged on how they have lived it. Jesus taught that the criterion of judgement would be how we have cared for each other. Traditionally judgement was thought to lead to paradise in heaven or punishment in hell, but modern western Christianity places less emphasis on this. The Bible and Christian tradition teach that Jesus will return again one day to judge all humanity and bring about a complete renewal of all creation.

Christians follow the Ten Commandments for moral conduct, but Jesus taught that living a life shaped by love for others was more important than sets of rules. Christianity has a strong tradition of care for the poor and the sick. Fundamentalist Christians believe that every word of the Bible is inspired by God and accept it as literal truth. Christians more generally believe that the Bible speaks the truth about God and about the moral and spiritual life in many different ways, and is sometimes to be read literally and sometimes not.

Different ways of reading the scriptures and different forms of worship and authority have given rise to different churches and other Christian organisations. In England the Church of England is the national church and is governed by the Queen and led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and an elected General Synod..

What do Christians do?

Traditionally Christians pray in the morning and evening, and set time aside for study and reflection on the Bible. Sunday is the day when most Christians gather together for worship. In England churches are often local landmarks, with a tower or spire. Inside the church may have a simple wooden cross on the wall, or it may have ornate carving and paintings. There are often stained glass windows showing scenes from the Bible. Focal points are the altar used for celebrating communion, and the pulpit, a raised platform for preaching. Christian services may include prayers, readings from the Bible, the singing of psalms and hymns, and a sermon, where a priest or other qualified person talks about a theme from the scriptures. The Lord's Prayer taught by Jesus to his disciples is often used.

The central act of worship is Holy Communion, which involves sharing bread and wine as a memorial of Jesus' last supper with his disciples before his passion. Most churches also have a separate Sunday school for children. Christians have no restrictions on what they eat or drink. Fasting from expensive foods or luxuries during the period of Lent - the 40 days before Easter – is practised by many Christians, and some denominations avoid alcohol. Baptism is the rite of initiation into Christianity. In some churches and denominations only teenagers and adults are baptised, but in most the sacrament is administered to babies, and followed by a confirmation ceremony in the early teens.

Christians believe that Jesus told his followers to spread the faith. Some feel called to do this through organised evangelism, while others prefer to witness to their faith in the way they live their everyday lives.

There are two great festivals: Christmas, celebrated on 25th December, is the feast of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, and Christians prepare for the feast during Advent, which begins in early December. The celebration continues until Epiphany on 6th January. Many Christians are sad that Christmas is now so commercialised that its religious significance is mocked or forgotten.

Holy Week and Easter, in April, mark the climax of Jesus' earthly life, and Christians commemorate the crucifixion on Good Friday, and resurrection on Easter Sunday. Forty days after Easter is the feast of Pentecost when the church celebrates the pouring out of God's Spirit on Jesus' disciples, empowering them to carry the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.

Christians in Nottingham

Nottingham is rich in Christian churches and congregations. St Barnabas' Cathedral in Derby Road dates from the 1840s and is, unusually, Roman Catholic. The city's Anglican parish church is St Mary in the Lacemarket, and the Anglican cathedral is Southwell Minster. These are both medieval foundations. Nottingham was the birthplace of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, which still has a strong presence in the City, as does the YMCA, another 19th century Christian movement. As well as Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed, Pentecostal and Orthodox Churches [ Greek, Russian, Romanian], Nottingham is home to many Black-led congregations, which have a strong tradition of gospel and revival singing. New congregations include Trent Vineyard, part of the Vineyard movement, and the Christian Centre, linked to the Assemblies of God. Christians support homes for older people, chaplaincies with many volunteers at the hospitals and the prison, youth clubs, and services for homeless people like Emmanuel House, and the Hope Nottingham project.
The City Centre business community is supported by Nottingham Workplace Chaplaincy, based at St. Peter's.