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Longer-term impact of Royal Wedding sermon on Brits limited, poll suggests

US Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry’s 14 minute sermon may have been the most “tweeted moment” during the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor last month, but a new poll suggests that its longer-term impact may not have been as great as some may have hoped.

Commissioned by British thinktank Theos and carried out by ComRes, the poll asked some 2007 British adults whether they agreed or disagreed with six statements. The findings show that just 16 per cent of people agreed – either strongly agreed or tended to agree – with the statement that they would be more likely to go to church if they thought the preaching would be similar to Bishop Curry’s sermon while just 12 per cent agreed with the statement that Bishop Curry’s sermon improved their understanding of Christian beliefs.

Royal Wedding Windsor

Some of the crowd who attended the Royal Wedding in Windsor. PICTURE: King’s Church International/Unsplash.

The highest percentage of agreement – 34 per cent – was with the statement that Bishop Curry’s sermon expressed ideas people can easily agree with, followed by 29 per cent who agreed it was appropriate for Bishop Curry to address both social and political issues in the sermon and the 26 per cent who agreed the content and tone of his sermon was appropriate for an important state occasion. In a similar vein, 22 per cent agreed it was appropriate for church leaders to use occasions like the Royal Wedding to “mix religion and politics”.

The highest proportion of those who disagreed – 38 per cent – was with the statement they be more likely to go to church if sermons were similar followed by 33 per cent who disagreed with the proposition that it is appropriate for church leaders to use such occasions to mix religion and politics, and 29 per cent who disagreed with the statement that the sermon had improved their understanding of Christian beliefs.

Significant numbers were ambivalent in their responses – the percentage of those who said they didn’t agree or disagree with the statements ranged from 20 to 30 per cent depending on the question and between 23 and 32 per cent answered ‘don’t know’.

In an article on the Theos website, researcher Charlotte Hobson said the results demonstrated “limited longer–term personal engagement with Bishop Curry’s message”.

“Nevertheless, a striking number of those who did respond positively and engage with the message were young in age and/or non–religious,” she wrote. “This is ultimately encouraging for Christians, highlighting that individuals in categories often deemed disengaged with or disinterested in religion were, here at least, open to what was being said.”

Ms Hobson said the poll confirmed that “a single 14 minute sermon does not a revival make”, revealing “generally high levels of ambivalence and uncertainty, and a positive correlation between existing religiosity and positive attitude to the sermon”.

But she added that the poll did expose a “significant minority of individuals who, though largely understood to be disinterested in and disengaged from religion, through their genuinely positive attitudes evidenced a willingness to engage more with Christianity” – something she described as “encouraging news for Christians” but also a challenge.

“High–profile positive media coverage is undoubtedly worthy of celebration, but the need for small–scale, continual outreach and interaction with non–Christians is also undoubtedly worthy of acknowledgement. Bishop Curry might have ‘nudged the dial’ a notch or two in a very high profile setting, but the work is far from complete.”



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