In praise of passion
Enthusiasm – I love it. Give me passion, excitement, fascination and joy over calm detachment and a cool distance anytime.
I see it at soccer matches when I support my team playing in England's Premier League, and I see it when I visit a range of grassroots organisations thriving in the city where I live.
When I visited a group running a historic railway signal box, I was struck by the enthusiasm and knowledge shown by the volunteers. I knew nothing about signalling or the history of the box, but appreciated the warm welcome, the deep knowledge and the lively demonstrations from the team.
I've experienced the same joy and enthusiasm from community choirs, interest groups and other voluntary societies thriving in my area – and hopefully in yours as well.
Enthusiasm is infectious. But sadly, in our churches, we don't always do enthusiasm well.
Research shows that many Christians fail badly at passing on their beliefs to the next generation. Faith, it seems, is not as infectious as a passion for a football club that can easily be passed down a family line.
Maybe it's something about being reserved, about not wanting to show that what we believe really matters.
As an English man, maybe it's part of our character not to talk about religion. It's something some people feel is very personal and might give offence. Other cultures have no such reserve – and I love the impact that Christians from a variety of backgrounds have made on the UK church scene.
Many churches run a range of community groups – without articulating the faith that drives them to make a difference in their local area. It's a missed opportunity to explain the reason behind what we do.
Even as a Christian minister, I don't get excited talking about religious rituals and traditions. But I love it when I hear people talking about their faith – a living faith that has made a real difference in their lives. Perhaps prompting them to launch a new charity, or a group that helps people with specific needs.
Or maybe a faith that drives them to leave behind a high-paying City job to work in the health service on lower pay. Or to take their skills abroad to work in a developing country and train local people to replace them. Or to set up a business aimed at providing vital services to people on low incomes.
Our churches have so many stories of transformation to share with their communities.
That's the type of enthusiastic faith that works for me. It's about a passion that makes a difference in people's lives – both themselves and the people around them.
Just as the team in that signal box communicated their passion and their enthusiasm to me, maybe we Christians should be more passionate and open about what we believe - and the impact that faith has had both on our lives, and on the communities around.
Rev Peter Crumpler is a Church of England minister in St Albans, Herts, UK, and a former communications director with the CofE.