The Christian Faith
The Christian Faith is centred on Jesus Christ. Christians believe that He was God come to earth when He was born as a baby in Bethlehem - the event we remember at Christmas. He went on to live a perfect life but then was put to death on a cross (which we remember on Good Friday) and then three days later rose from the dead (which we celebrate at Easter). After forty days He returned to His home in heaven, from where one day He will return again to earth in glory.
The Cross has become the great symbol of Christianity because it reminds us that Jesus died on a cross so that all who trust Him are saved from all the wrong things they have done. The name "Jesus" means "Saviour".
The Bible is a collection of books written by 40 authors over 1,500 years.
It consists of 39 books in the Old Testament, telling the story of God's people right from the creation up until shortly before Jesus came. The New Testament has 27 books, telling the story of Jesus in four gospels, an account of the early church in the Book of Acts, and letters written by Paul, Peter and other close followers of Jesus to explain the meaning of the Christian faith. Christians believe God speaks to us as we read the Bible.
The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church consists of people all over the world who follow Jesus. From its beginnings in the Middle East, Christianity spread into Europe and then later into every country in the world, and it is now growing very fast in Africa, South America and parts of south-east Asia. The Roman Catholic Church is that part of the church which follows the teaching of the Pope in Rome, believing he is a successor to St Peter, who was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus.
The Reformation owed a lot to a man in Germany named Martin Luther. He was a monk in the Roman Catholic Church about 500 years ago. As he studied the Bible he came to see that we are saved by faith in Jesus, not by trying to earn our salvation by the things we do. Believing the church at that time to be wrong, he led a movement to protest about what it was teaching - this was the beginning of the Protestant Church.
John Calvin came along a few years after Luther as a leader in the Protestant church. Although French by birth, he eventually became leader of the church in the Swiss city of Geneva. He is especially remembered for the books he wrote explaining about the Christian faith, and these spread rapidly through Europe and later into North America.
The French Huguenots took on his teachings, and in 1662 Holland adopted Calvinism as the state religion.
William Tyndale also played an important part in causing the Reformation to spread through England by his work in translating the Bible into English from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek in which it was written. Bibles in English were not allowed and copies had to be smuggled into England. Tyndale was eventually put to death as he did not agree with the Established Church, but his last words were "Lord, open the King of England's eyes". Within a few years a Bible was placed in every parish church in the country.
The Evangelical Revival
The Evangelical Revival took place in the 18th century, largely through people like George Whitefield and John Wesley (together with his hymn-writing brother Charles) who traveled up and down the country preaching in the open-air. On one occasion Whitefield preached (without a microphone!) to about 30,000 people outside Bristol. As a result many people became Christians.
The Anti-Slavery Movement
The Anti-Slavery Movement was largely led by Christians who were shocked at the conditions in which slaves were taken from Africa across to America. Amongst those who campaigned against the slave-trade was John Newton, who before he became a Christian had been the captain of a slave ship. Another leading figure was William Wilberforce, who was a prominent MP, and eventually, just before he died, saw his bill to abolish the slave trade passed in Parliament.
The Christian Legacy
The Huguenots had a strong work ethic deriving from their Protestant Faith, and this continued throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, by a dedicated missionary movement taking Christianity to all parts of the world. Whilst the Church in the west (Europe and North America) declined in numbers in the latter half of the 20th century, it experienced phenomenal growth elsewhere, especially Africa, South America and parts of south-east Asia. Just as the Huguenots faced persecution for their faith, so the same is experienced by many Christians today, causing some to become refugees, but the same Christian Gospel which affected them so profoundly continues to flourish and expand into the 21st century.