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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

The first Christians in Britain arrived with the *Romans, and the religion found many followers among the well-to-do. The chi-rho monogram (formed of the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ) is featured in the Roman villas at Chedworth and *Lullingstone and on spoons in the *Mildenhall and *Hoxne treasures; it also appears on the earliest known representation in Britain of Christ himself, in a 4C mosaic pavement found at Hinton St Mary in Dorset (now in the British Museum). But this first veneer of Christianity did not long survive the departure of the Romans.

The lasting conversion of Britain depended on two separate missionary endeavours. One derived from the efforts of St *Patrick in Ireland, influencing Scotland and northern England from *Iona and *Lindisfarne. The other came from Rome, with the arrival of St *Augustine in Kent. The rival claims of these two strands of Christianity were resolved at the *Synod of Whitby in 664, with the victory going to Rome.

Roman Catholicism remained the Christianity of Britain until the 16C, when the *Reformation resulted in two different forms of the faith in the *Church of England and the *Church of Scotland. During the 17–18C several of the most important breakaway Christian groups had their origins in England, in particular the *Baptists, *Quakers and *Methodists.

Classed as *Nonconformists, these sects lived under severe restrictions until the 19C, as did the surviving small minority of *Roman Catholics. By contrast Ireland had been relatively little affected by the Reformation, in spite of strenuous efforts from England, and it remained largely Roman Catholic. The exception was the northern province of *Ulster, which was settled during the 17C with Protestants, mainly from Scotland, as a deliberate colonial policy – a measure which still has disastrous results in *Northern Ireland today.

The 19C saw a great revival of Christian fervour in the educated classes in England, with the rise of *Anglo-Catholicism, but the inhabitants of the new industrial cities were drifting increasingly outside the reach of the churches. And the 20C has seen a steady decline in churchgoing, particularly in the Church of England; by the 1970s there were more Roman Catholics than Anglicans in church on an average English Sunday.

Precise figures for church attendance were achieved in a census carried out on Sunday 15 October 1989 in all places of Christian worship in England (it did not extend to other parts of Britain). Adult churchgoers on that day numbered 1,304,600 Roman Catholics, 1,143,900 Anglicans, 396,100 Methodists, 199,400 Baptists, 114,000 in the United Reformed Church, 95,200 Pentecostal, 68,500 Afro-Caribbean, 57,300 Salvation Army, 12,300 Seventh-Day Adventists, 9400 Orthodox, 4700 Lutheran, 1800 Moravian, 1500 Society of Friends (Quakers); and 292,800 grouped together as Independent churches. All the major groups had declined in number from ten years previously apart from the Afro-Caribbeans, the Pentecostalists and (by far the largest increase) the Independents; these are many small groups, characterized above all by the House Church Movement, worshipping in people's own homes.

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