MICHAEL, aged 14, had been in the UK for just a few months when he was asked if he would like to serve at Holy Cross, Cromer Street, near King’s Cross, in London. He arrived with his family from Nigeria a year ago, and now serves as an acolyte.
Jonas, ten, has been coming to church “my whole life”, and has served as a boat boy since he was nine, carrying the incense to and from the altar. “When you’re asleep, sometimes it’s a struggle,” he admits, when asked if he enjoys coming to church. “But when you come here, it’s very nice and fun.”
Although in many churches young people leave during the service, returning once the sermon has ended, both boys give positive accounts of remaining with the congregation.
“It’s not that complicated,” Jonas observes of the sermon, which today, perhaps aptly, was on the boy Samuel hearing from God. Both he and Michael say that music — traditional hymns set to the organ and a sung liturgy — is one of their favourite aspects of the service. “The music makes you feel strong,” Jonas says. “And the serving is kind of interesting,” Michael says.
Faith is not unusual at their school, where most of the pupils are Muslim. Neither of them report feeling embarrassed or uneasy about their faith. Jonas has invited friends to church. Both pray every day, and it is notable that the world at large features heavily, in contrast to a recent Tearfund survey, which found that global issues ranked far down the list of the prayers of the population at large.
“I pray for others,” Jonas says. “People in the world who are sick, who are homeless; and for our parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, family who are sick, grandparents and friends, helping others.” He also prays for “a good sleep to get the rest you need to have a good day tomorrow”.
Michael prays for his family, “and what I am going to become when I grow up, a safe environment in the world, people who are suffering in Africa, violence, everything — and a long life.”
Both boys are from Christian homes, and have African parents: Jonas’s mother came to Britain from Uganda, and she tells me that she always makes an effort to bring her family to church, to give thanks to God.
I ask the boys why more young people do not come to church.
Jonas, who was confirmed recently, says: “Kids do not really have belief; so they do not really understand God. And, sometimes, when people are younger, they have SATs, and sometimes that prevents going to church.”
Michael is conscious of friends who would rather play on their consoles or phones. “If kids give suggestions, maybe kids would like it more,” Jonas suggests. “Maybe youth programmes, where youth come together, and go on trips and stuff,” Michael says.
Yet both seem content with things at Holy Cross. “There are not many things to change,” Jonas says. His favourite thing about it? “How everyone is so kind here.”