A FEW years ago, a fellow parish priest in Telford recounted the story of when he was visiting.

He came to a house where clearly on the window glass was a sign saying…No Religious Callers.

About to go away, the woman in the house came to the door and invited him in. He explained that he didn't want to intrude given the sign on the door.

Her reply was, that doesn’t mean you; you are our vicar.

For many years when anyone was in doubt when asked about their religion, the box ticked was not None or Don’t Know but C of E.

What has come to light from recent census and research data is that this is no longer as clear as it once was.

In a recent poll, 53% described themselves as having no religion and only around 15% as being C of E (Anglican). The change has been a slow but steady one.

Previous generations from school onwards sang hymns and many of my generation have a cluster of favourites. This no longer is so.

As was witnessed at the recent reopening of the Manchester Arena it is more likely that the present generation will be much more at ease signing along to ‘Don't look back in anger.’

Does the loss of religion matter? Many of us want to suggest that it is a more profound one than perhaps is first thought.

Human rights have a place but are now almost the only ethical system employed.

What is in danger of being lost are the profound stories embodied in the Judeo-Christian tradition which for centuries provided a wealth of images and inspiration and indeed significantly shaped our countries, values, laws, literature and culture.

They have inspired politicians, philanthropists and social reformers.

With that loss is the potential loss of its overarching story of love, forgiveness, redemption and hope.

It would be unwise to claim too much. However values rooted in a narrative with historical continuity, which stand outside ourselves and gives scope for reflection are important in an age more attuned to self identity and personal story.