Time running out to find the 11th commandment

After taking to pubs, student unions, cafes and cinemas acrossthe country, the Methodist Church's search for a possible 11thcommandment ends tomorrow.

The campaign, aimed at uncovering the issues that matter tounder-40s, has produced such wide ranging suggestions as 'Lookafter your planet', 'Thou shalt not watch reality TV shows', and'Thou shalt live, love and believe'.

Rev Jonathan Kerry, the Church's Co-ordinating Secretary forWorship and Learning and spokesman for the initiative said: "Theresponse has bowled us over - we had hoped for hundreds, but havealready received thousands of entries, from all across the world.Dozens of papers, radio and TV stations have invited people to joinin. Just as we hoped, this has really got people talking about whatreally matters in life to them, about the Bible and how to usetechnology to spark spiritual debate"

Mr Kerry said: "Some people have suggested that this has allbeen just a gimmick or a sign of desperation in the face of fallingnumbers - but the Church is serious about finding contemporary waysto communicate. Tablets of stone may have been fine for Moses, but3000 years on we need to embrace new ways of getting in touch."

The 11th commandment competition is but the first of a series ofinitiatives designed to help Methodist leaders to understand betterthe culture of under-40's. Methodism may not have lost a wholegeneration, but it is certainly thin on the ground. What's goingon?

Roger Hutchings, a member of the 20s and 30s Initiative, hasbeen conducting meetings with small groups of young adults all overthe country to find out: "I'm getting used to hearing some honestand tough talk, because there's no doubt that there's a seriouscultural gap between the lifestyle and experience of many people inthat age-group and the style of Methodism.  That cultural gapoften extends to negative reactions to public worship, where bothlanguage and music seems to come from another age."

Mr Hutchings' work has, however, involved groups on both sidesof the 'cultural gap'. He recently visited a group still operatinga thoroughly traditional Methodist set-up, and commented: "Theyacknowledged that there is, even in a stable community like theirs,a widening gap between their accepted values and those of theirneighbours and colleagues. This goes to the heart of the 20s and30s Initiative.  Bridging that gap effectively to proclaim thegospel is becoming very, very tough, and Methodists around Britainare perhaps finding it easier to listen to and talk to each other,rather than listening carefully to what can feel like an aliensociety".

Roger Hutchings focus groups are due to continue in the comingmonths. Meanwhile, the 11th Commandment Competition closes 31March, with the winners to be announced in the first week of April,just in time for Easter.