THE early returns are in for Back to Church Sunday, and they’re stunning: 2,429 newcomers came to Anglican churches in the Diocese of Toronto on Sept. 27.
Nearly 80 per cent of all the churches in the diocese took part in the event, which saw regular church-goers ask their friends and family members back to church. Those numbers could go even higher as four deaneries have yet to report.
“This is beyond our wildest predictions,” says Bishop Philip Poole, who headed up efforts in the diocese. “It’s thrilling to see that many people accepting our invitation.”
He says the bishops will ask regional deans in December to find out from their parish priests how many of those newcomers have remained in their churches. “We have some early indications that people have been staying,” he says.
The Rev. Ruth Knapp, incumbent of Christ Church, Campbellford, says that of the approximately 30 guests who came to her church, about half are still attending. The number of newcomers per church on Sept. 27 ranged from one to 100.
Many churches reported having 10 or more. In one case, a new family came to church, and then brought another family with them the following Sunday. To determine the number of newcomers, regional deans asked their parish priests if they participated in Back to Church Sunday and, if so, how many visitors came. The total reported as of Nov. 5 was 2,429.
Bishop Poole said the numbers show that Anglicans want to share their faith with others – and can do it. “Back to Church Sunday has given us permission to talk about our faith.
It shows that Anglicans are excited about where their church is going, both at the local, area and diocesan level.”
He says the College of Bishops is committed to Back to Church Sunday for the next five years. The next one will be held on Sept. 26, 2010. The diocese has 211 parishes which contain 253 congregations. It has 20 deaneries.
Back to Church Sunday started in the U.K. in 2004 and has spread to thousands of churches in 15 countries around the world. The total worldwide figures for 2009 will be published when they are available.
By Stuart Mann
The Anglican Dec 2009