With Good Friday upon us once more, we spoke to 30 vicars and priests from across the county as part of our Big Easter Survey. We asked them a series of simple questions to assess the state of Christianity and the understanding of Easter in 2015. The first question we asked was: Has the meaning of Easter been lost? Secondly, we asked do you believe in the literal truth of the resurrection and can someone be a Christian if they don’t?

Pastor Carl Chambers, Christ Church, Brighton Answer one: Yes. I think the meaning of Easter has been largely lost, certainly if I consider what our children are taught in school, it’s more to do with the Easter bunny, Easter eggs, Easter mouse than Jesus on the cross.

Answer two: I do believe in the literal truth of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and I don’t see how someone can be a Christian, or would want to follow Jesus as lord and saviour, if they didn’t. Why follow a dead man?

Father David Clues, St Bartholomew, Ann Street, Brighton A2: The resurrection is life – but not as we know it. The resurrection is not about more of the same for longer.

Our society seeks to deny, control or cheat death – and so affords it an even more fearful power.

The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the power of God to overcome cruelty, oppression, hatred, and death itself, so that it no longer has the last word.

The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that God who orders all things for good has the power and love to transform lives from mere survival to liberated, enriched, fulfilled existence, with God-given dignity.

This is the literal truth of the resurrection. Why would you bother to be a Christian if you did not believe it?

Reverend Martin Poole, St Luke’s Prestonville, Old Shoreham Road, Brighton A1: I think the large majority of the population are probably a bit unclear about the meaning of Easter which has got all mixed up with chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies. It’s the church’s job to do a better job of explaining it.

A2: I do believe in the resurrection but whether it’s a necessary requirement for being a Christian depends on how you define that. The church defines it as being able to assent to the creeds which include the resurrection but I think many people’s definition of a Christian would go beyond the creeds these days.

Father Felix Mascarenhas, Good Shepherd Church, Dyke Road, Brighton A1: I can firmly say that the Easter meaning has not been lost. On the contrary, it is something which is being rediscovered and better understood by people today. It is like plucking the chicken for a better taste, rather than eating it whole.

Probably many are giving up the wrong meaning of resurrection and taking in the true one as they mature. They might do this even without being aware of it. But it is still very relevant.

A2: One has to be careful here. I remember a professor of mine saying ‘I can judge your knowledge more by your questions than by your answers’.

However, I would begin saying that the resurrection of Jesus is a supernatural or extra-mundane experience, and therefore difficult to put in adequate words. Although the resurrection is described in words in the Bible, I think it is an experience that each Christian can have – or might not have – and always differently from others. At times someone is unable to have that experience.

I think someone can be a Christian even if they don’t believe. Christianity does not exclude anybody and is for all who believe, even if they do so in a different way.

Dr Andrew Manson-Brailsford, St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Brighton A1: No. The longer I live the more I realise that times and events without meaning never last. Easter has true meaning, in as much as we were created by a loving God, who despite our shortcomings will even die to bring us safely to our natural home.

A2: What I believe – or anyone else – will never change the truth. All that changes is our perception. We are all on a spiritual journey, and so long as we are striving to reach God, then it doesn’t really matter that we are at different stages in that journey.

Reverend Andrew Woodward, St Mary's Church, St James’ Street, Brighton A1: I think the message of hope and new birth is still evident, even here in Brighton, and being proclaimed by all the Christian churches which will be pretty full on Easter Day.

Whilst it may have once been dubbed the most godless city, it is in my opinion, one of the most spiritual, with many people connected to their humanity and able to give that free expression. After all, Jesus expresses his divinity most fully in his humanity – fully human – fully God.

A2: Yes, I do believe in the resurrection. Both the stories of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and Mary Magdalene in the garden show that they did not at first recognise the resurrected Jesus, as his body was somehow transformed.

Yet they were able after the initial encounter to recognise him and to see and speak with him.

Becoming a Christian is a journey, and belief in the resurrection is a cornerstone of the Christian message.

It is the revelation of the truth of the resurrection in a person’s life that enables a deepening commitment to the way of Christ, the way, the truth and the life.

Reverend Archie Coates, St Peters, York Place, Brighton A1: I think the message of Easter is as important now as ever, it is a message of hope. Jesus’ resurrection means at least three things for us today: first, it gives validity to the cross and to Jesus’ claims – to be able to forgive sins, to give us a fresh start, to set us free from guilt and shame, all the things he dealt with at the cross.

Second, the resurrection means that there is nothing that is impossible for God. If he can overcome even death, he can surely deal with every other “impossible” situation this side of the grave too – so our faith and our prayers are not futile.

Third, and most important, the resurrection means that Jesus is alive, which means we can have a relationship with him, we can speak to him (prayer). A Christian is someone who has a relationship with Jesus.

A2: I think it would be hard to have this kind of dynamic relationship with someone who is dead. So yes, the whole Christian faith hangs or falls on the question “was Jesus raised from the dead?” But if he is truly alive, and he can deal with all our guilt, shame, wrongness, and nothing is impossible for him, even death, and we can have a relationship with this loving powerful God, then that means we can be full of hope in our daily lives, however difficult they sometimes are.

Reverend Lawrence Maclean, St Barnabas, Sackville Road, Hove A1: No. There are more worshipping Christians than people realise. There are more people who belong to Christian churches than political parties. The media often makes it seem as though Christianity is on the decrease whereas I think it’s on the increase.

A2: Yes, I do and no, you can’t be. Unless you believe in the resurrection there is no Christ resurrected and there is no faith.

Reverend Dan Henderson, St Andrew’s, Church Road, Hove A1: I guess we have gone down the Christmas route to an extent where it is all about chocolate eggs and things like that. But I think most people, given the question “what is Easter about?” would give an answer involving Jesus. So it’s not completely lost.

A2: Yes I do and Paul in the Bible says no they can’t. He says a Christian is someone who proclaims Jesus as lord and believes he rose again so I’d probably go with that version of what he told us.

Reverend Stephen Terry, St Leonard and St Phillip Churches, New Church Road, Hove A1: Some Christians get very irate about the fact that the meaning of Easter gets lost because of Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs and all this stuff.

Others of us recognise that we exist in a multi-cultural environment and go on doing what we do in the way that we think is most appropriate and accepting that there are others around us who will be doing different things.

But the message of Easter doesn’t change and we go on proclaiming that. Those who are ready to listen to it will listen to it and those who aren’t won’t. That’s always been the case.

A2: The resurrection is a complete and utter mystery.

No one knows how it happened but it did happen in some way, I have no doubt at all. As to whether it’s how it was traditionally depicted, I have an open mind.

If someone is not prepared to accept a literal bodily resurrection I would not call them un-Christian for doing so. I would want to discuss it with them because I might learn something from them and they might learn something from me.

That way, views might be changed and we might get a better understanding of what this event was.

Reverend Keith Perkinton, St Helen’s, Hangleton Way and St Richard’s, Egmont Road, Hangleton A1: The meaning of Easter is lived out in millions of lives all over the world. Do you believe in love and meaning and the goodness of creation? If so you’re on the road of Easter.

A2: Someone once said that it was the resurrection that explains the existence of the Church and not the other way round. There are lots of ways of believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ but it’s more than just a single item in a larger whole. It’s more the whole itself. I’d say it was more like soil from where all faith, love and meaning come from.

Reverend Phil Ritchie, All Saints, The Drive, Hove A1: I don’t think the meaning has been lost at all. Hope, love and the suffering and death of pain – those things are not lost.

We live in a much more secular world so fewer people are willing to listen to what the church likes saying about the importance of the new life offered in Jesus.

I don’t know whether that’s a new thing particularly – those are ancient things. I don’t feel there has been some dramatic moral falling away in the past few years. Generally less people go to church – it’s a general change in the religious make-up of the nation.

A2: I believe the resurrection isn’t just something to do with the mind or a feeling in the heart. It is a material faith which is about matter, flesh, the body and new life for creation.

I believe that it’s important that the resurrection happened in history at a particular time, in a particular time and to a particular person.

It was a concrete thing. The promise of the resurrection is not just an airy-fairy thing or an intellectual thing. It’s about trusting in the reality of God. To be Christian you have to believe in the truth of the resurrection. It’s at the heart of Christianity.

Without the resurrection, death and suffering of Jesus Christ the Christian faith is nothing.

Reverend Andy Flowerday, All Saints, Church Hill, Patcham A1: I guess the message can get hidden but I don’t think it’s been lost.

Talking about death on the cross is not a pleasant subject. If people don’t believe in God then what is Easter to them? It’s a holiday, which is great because everyone needs a holiday. But the whole thing about Easter is that it’s God saying to us all that he loves us massively. It’s something churches still celebrate.

I do believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I think God raised him from the dead. I believe our God made the universe and therefore he’s quite capable of raising someone from the dead – he wrote the laws in the first place.

A2: I know a lot of people who struggle with it and I think it’s a core part of the Christian belief.

The Christian faith is about a relationship with God through Jesus and for that Jesus has to be alive. That’s my understanding of it – he is the means of my relationship with God and therefore he is alive.

Reverend Betsy Gray Hammond, St Mary Magdalen, Coldean Lane, Coldean A1: No, not among the Christian community but it has been commercialised and the church has had to work harder to remind people what the true meaning is.

Easter is vital to me. We are as Christians Easter people.

Believing in the saving love of God through Jesus it is a time to reflect upon our lives, the way we live and how we treat others, to feel the joy of the risen Christ and to celebrate the power of salvation through his death and resurrection.

A2: I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and it’s for people to learn and study and make decisions for themselves.

I can speak for myself but not for others.I think people can be Christian if they doubt it.

I think it’s something we all come to terms with in a different way. Easter is the most important time of my year. It’s a time of reflection, joy and celebration.

Reverend Marc Lloyd, St John the Evangelist, The Causeway, Bodle Street Green A1: I don’t know really. I guess lots of people won’t think about the real meaning of Easter.

I think for many it’s a holiday with Easter eggs and Easter bunnies whereas obviously we want people to think about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

A2: Yes I do and I think it’s pretty essential.

The tomb was empty, Jesus is alive today. If being a Christian is about a friendship with Jesus Christ it’s to do with a friendship to do with a living person rather than a dead hero.

Reverend John Hull, St Thomas More’s, Braybon Hill, Patcham A1: No I believe it's still a reality today and in most people's lives, especially death being followed by a new life.

A2: Yes. I think the resurrection and the passing of Jesus Christ leads to resurrection, and it is very much part of the Christian faith so it would be a bit unusual for people not to believe.

Reverend Kevin O'Donnell, Our Lady of Lords, Steyning Road, Rottingdean A1: Yes course it has, people haven’t got a clue. I’ve heard people say ‘what’s the church got to do about Easter’ – that’s how ignorant many people are out there.”

A2: Absolutely. If I didn’t, I’d go home and not bother. And no. Absolutely not. Can somebody be a Communist if they don’t believe in Karl Marx? Choose truth of your conviction, stand where you stand and not where you shouldn’t.

Reverend Steve Daughtery, Southover Church, Cockshut Road, Lewes A1: The meaning is still there but people are less aware of the hope contained within it.

A2: Absolutely. Some of the finest minds in our country, both religious and secular, have concluded that the evidence of the physical resurrection is overwhelming. I will leave that up to God.

Reverend Richard Moatt, Canon of St Thomas, St Michael’s and St Anne’s, Western Road, Lewes A1: No, not at all.

A2: Yes. I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and when we die we go to heaven. We bury and cremate bodies in the understanding that we get to go to heaven transformed in a miraculous way to go and live with God.

Reverend Jeremy Bamber, Associate Vicar at Southover, Cockshut Road, Lewes A1: Good question. I think the answer is that yes it is in much of the population.

The lack of good teaching in schools and (lack of) of people going to church has meant that people are not very informed about Easter. And the commercialisation has meant that focus is on things other than the message.

A2: Yes I believe that Jesus Christ was physically resurrected and that without it the Christian faith does not make much sense.

A lot of the Christian faith is about hope and that hope doesn’t mean much if the basis of that hope is not there. Every individual is on a journey in their faith and at different stages of that journey we understand differently.

Father Dennis Bradshaw, St Edward the Confessor, Royal George Road, Burgess Hill A1: Yes. It’s all about the bunnies and eggs.

A2: Of course and no they can’t. It’s the core fundamental of being a Christian. No point in believing in a dead God.

Reverend Ray Smith, Church of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, New England Road, Haywards Heath A1: Our Good Friday and Easer Sunday services are well attended.

A2: I believe that disciples believe that he rose again, not in a physical sense, not in this life. Who am I to judge?

Father David Weaver, St. Richard’s, Sydney Road, Haywards Heath A1: Underneath secularisation, it means different things to different people. People work hard and need rest days. It doesn’t always run according to our choice.

A2: Resurrection is essential to the Christian faith. That would be relegating Jesus to just a good teacher.

Reverend Jane Willis, Holy Trinity, High Street, Hurstpierpoint A1: It has been for some who don’t know the story.

A2: Yes. Absolutely. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t. And no I can’t quite see how.

Reverend James Hollingsworth, St Mary, Barcombe, Lewes, Diocese of Chichester, Church of England A1: Easter is not quite as commercialised as other festivals and there is some pretty good stuff on television at the moment – Noah was on with David Threfall – the bloke from Shameless – and it was just brilliant.

My Easter talk from last year was that death is broken. The thing about Easter and death being different [broken] is that it applies to everybody.

A2: The answer to that is always a small part of the answer which is to say what do you mean by the question?

I see a lot of us who are quite happy to carry the flag of Christians as being still pilgrims on a path. Often less [a question] of whether someone believes or does not believe in the literal event of the resurrection, but what is the implication of it?

By James Woolven, Shanti Das, Emily Stedman, Angelika Rusbridge, Claire Parsons and Ryan Benjamin