Faith is not just a matter of numbers

Last year’s census data is being released and it is interesting to see how Horsham has changed over the past ten years.

The population has increased from 14,423 to 16,250, and so has the median age, from 30 to 41.

Since 2006, the top three languages spoken at home apart from English have changed from Italian, Greek and German to Italian, Mandarin and Tagalog.

As the pastor of a little congregation seeking to share the good news about Jesus I was keen to see how the religious map of Horsham had changed.

In 2006, most people identified as Uniting Church (21 per cent) or Roman Catholic (19 per cent), with only 16 per cent of people counting themselves as secular or non-religious.

However, in 2016 those numbers flipped around.

Thirty per cent of Horsham identified themselves as secular or non-religious, with the next groups being Roman Catholics (17 per cent) and Uniting Church (15 per cent).

Lutherans held steady at about nine per cent across the decade.

The dramatic increase in secular and non-religious identification is evidence that people are feeling freer to be honest about what they believe.

I became a minister because I wanted people to know the truth about Jesus and respond to him with a genuine trust.

Honesty is the first step. Jesus said in John’s Gospel, “that the truth will set you free”.

What you believe about good and evil and life and death is important.

The next step, as Simon Risson observed in this column a couple of weeks ago, is to have a conversation, hear what our neighbours believe and why. 

Those who identified themselves as Christians have an extra challenge.

Compared to the rest of Victoria, per capita Horsham is much more religious.

The challenge for us is to turn that religious census data into a life focused on following Jesus.

Rev Luke Isham, Horsham Presbyterian Church on behalf of the Horsham Christian Ministers Association.