British men, like Western men in general, find church an alien environment. Clive Fields summarizes the results of recent surveys:
Although most men have visited a church within the past two years, principally for a rite of passage, it is apparently not a place in which they feel entirely at ease, in comparison with other environments which were enquired about. The latter even included ladies underwear shops, where many men said they would feel more relaxed than in a place of worship.
Only 20% of men said they would feel very comfortable in church, with 41% uncomfortable. There were significant variations by age, with 58% of the 18-24 year-olds feeling uncomfortable in church but 22% of the over-65s. Even among professing Christians, 41% of 18-24 year-olds feel uncomfortable in church.
Hymn-singing partly explains male discomfort about attending a church service. 48% have an aversion to singing hymns, with still bigger numbers of the young and those with no religious affiliation.
However, there is also discomfort about singing in public more generally, such as in public houses (60%) and at parties (52%). Only in the privacy of the shower (83%) and alone in the car (86%) do men feel totally relaxed about exercising their vocal chords.
I happen to like singing hymns (depending on the hymn – no On Eagle’s Wings, thank you). But perhaps British churches should concentrate on choirs.