An August 2015 Survey for the Office for National Statistics has ranked Ribble Valley, in which Salem Chapel is found, the happiest place to live in England, and the second happiest in the UK. The other places are ranked as follows:
Top 10 happy places in the UK:
- Fermanagh and Omagh, Northern Ireland
- Ribble Valley, Lancashire
- Eilean Siar, Western Isles
- West Somerset
- Orkney Islands
- Blaby, Leicestershire
- Allerdale, Cumbria
- Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Northern Ireland
- Mid- and East Antrim, Northern Ireland
- East Cambridgeshire
Top 10 least happy places in the UK:
- Bolsover, Derbyshire
- Cannock Chase, Staffordshire
- Dundee City
- Dover, Kent
- West Lancashire
- Fenland, Cambridgeshire
- Knowsley, Merseyside
- Canterbury, Kent
So why is Ribble Valley so happy? Well it's very beautiful and it's in Lancashire. What more need be said? It has good schools, including Clitheroe Grammar as well as excellent comprehensives, it's fairly close to centres of employment like Preston, Leeds and Manchester, and within equally easy striking distance of the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Scotland and Wales. A cynic might also point out the house prices are so high, you can only afford to live there if you're old and rich; time plus wealth is a most pleasant combination (the current writer has precious little of either).
But what is happiness? I'd suggest it is the state of enjoying life's circumstances. You've enough money, enough space, enough socialising. But remember, happiness evaporates as soon as the pleasant circumstances desert you. Happiness is therefore transient and fleeting.
The gospel offers us more than mere happiness. It offers joy. Joy based on a changeless God and His promises. As God cannot and will not change, the Christian’s joy remains a constant even when his happiness fades.
Ribble Valley may be happy, but there's little joy.