I had a surprise recently.

I thought I knew a bit about European Christianity, but there I was, with a group of pilgrims, in a Lutheran church in Tallinn, Estonia (we could tell it was Lutheran because of a fine portrait of Martin Luther in pole position) and  to our surprise, not only did it have all its lovely Medieval statues intact, but there was a carving of St Peter, dressed as a Pope, right on top of the pulpit. In full view of the gallery.

In the past European Christians cut each other to pieces and rivers ran red with blood over Protestant/Catholic divisions, yet here in Estonia the Protestant Lutherans left intact a figure of the Pope. Does this tell us more about Lutherans or Estonians? Dunno.

What I do know is that the religious landscape is always more complicated than we realise, but sadly most people only read the headlines, and think quarrels over veils, abortion, terrorism and sex scandals are the marks of believers.

Pop your head into any kind of church or look at any religious group’s website and you will see that, in fact, most believers, these days, of whatever stamp, are not in fact shouting at or attacking people, but getting on with the ordinary business of showing them God’s love – in food banks, community advice, sick visiting, marrying, burying, comforting.

Is this a bit of a surprise?

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